Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s old friend and former adviser Roger Stone might not be spending seven to nine years in prison for lying to protect his old boss after all.
Prosecutors said Monday that Stone, a key figure in the Russia investigations that loomed over the first half of Trump’s presidency, deserved to spend the better part of a decade in prison for crimes that struck “at the very heart of our American democracy.” But the Department of Justice signaled plans to significantly lower that recommendation on Tuesday, following a late-night tweetstorm from Trump about the unfairness of such a long spell in prison for the lifelong GOP political provocateur.
“The Department finds seven to nine years extreme, excessive and grossly disproportionate to Mr. Stone’s offenses,” an unnamed senior DOJ official told multiple press outlets Tuesday, adding that the department’s position would be clarified later the same day.
“The Department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation in the filing in the Stone case last night,” the official told Fox News. “The sentencing recommendation was not what had been briefed to the Department.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C., which oversaw Stone’s prosecution, declined to comment on whether the sentencing recommendation would be changed or whether high-ranking officials in the Trump administration had pressured local prosecutors to go easy on Stone.
Stone was convicted in November of telling multiple lies while under oath about his efforts to learn more about the release of emails hacked by Russia from Democrats during the 2016 campaign. Those emails were stolen by Russian cyber-spies and then released through the renegade transparency group WikiLeaks.
But Stone’s got a friend in the White House — one he scrambled to help win in 2016 and then earned a criminal conviction for lying to protect.
The Department of Justice’s rush to reduce Stone’s prison time follows a tweet from Trump a few minutes before 2 a.m. that criticized the recommendation as overly harsh.
“This is a horrible and very unfair situation,” Trump wrote. “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
A revision of the sentencing recommendation for Stone is sure to prompt renewed criticism that the DOJ has become deeply politicized under Attorney General William Barr, who has been slammed by former prosecutors and Democrats for repeatedly looking for ways to use the department to suit Trump’s interests.
Cover image: Roger Stone exits federal court Washington, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Stone, longtime friend of President Donald Trump, has been found guilty at his trial in federal court in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)