WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday congratulated his attorney general for intervening to lower the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for the president’s longtime friend, Roger J. Stone Jr., and belittled the crime of lying to Congress.
In November, Mr. Stone was convicted of obstructing a congressional inquiry by the House Intelligence Committee into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lying to investigators under oath and trying to block the testimony of a witness who would have exposed his lies.
The president’s comments come less than 24 hours after four career prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case over objections to what appeared to be a White House-influenced decision to overrule their recommended seven- to nine-year term for Mr. Stone. The Justice Department instead suggested an unspecified term, though its filing said the original recommendation had been excessive.
The department’s action on Tuesday followed a Twitter post by Mr. Trump that criticized “horrible and very unfair” punishment for Mr. Stone.
Presidents typically have avoided interfering in Justice Department decisions to avoid allegations of improper influence, though there is no law against it. Mr. Trump has publicly inserted himself into several Justice Department matters, in some instances to protect friends like Mr. Stone and to direct investigations into his political rivals.
The Justice Department said the Stone case was not discussed with anyone at the White House. The decision to override the recommended sentence was made by officials in Attorney General William P. Barr’s office as well as officials in the deputy attorney general’s office.