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Ex-White House ethics chief rips reversal on Stone sentencing

Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, on Wednesday lambasted President Trump and the Department of Justice after the agency made an extraordinary reversal in its sentencing recommendation for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone

“A corrupt authoritarian and his henchmen are wielding the Justice Department as a shield for friends and a sword for political rivals,” Shaub, who resigned from his post in July 2017, tweeted. “It is impossible to overstate the danger.” 

The statement from Shaub came just moments after Trump said on Twitter that Attorney General William Barr intervened in the case to recommend a lighter sentence for Stone. Thanking Barr for his actions, Trump tweeted that the case was “totally out of control” and suggested that it should have never been brought. 

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The Justice Department’s prosecution team earlier this week recommended that Stone serve a prison sentence of between seven and nine years for lying to Congress and witness tampering. Stone was convicted of the charges, which stemmed from his efforts to provide info to the 2016 Trump campaign about WikiLeaks, in November. 

Trump almost immediately derided the sentencing recommendation, arguing that it was too harsh and that it amounted to a “miscarriage of justice.” The Justice Department a day later told a federal judge that its initial recommendation did not “accurately reflect” its position and that the judge should impose a sentence of far less than seven to nine years. 

The Justice Department told NBC News that Barr did not communicate with the White House about the change in its sentencing recommendation.

All four lawyers on the prosecutorial team in Stone’s case resigned ahead of the new court filing from the Justice Department. Aaron Zelinsky, an ex-member of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, resigned from his special assignment to the Stone case. Prosecutors Adam Jed and Michael Marando also withdrew from the matter. Jonathan Kravis, announced his resignation from the case and as an assistant U.S. attorney.

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Shaub, a frequent Trump critic who now works with the Campaign Legal Center, added in a separate tweet that recent developments could have serious consequences for the Justice Department.

“To put DOJ’s politicization in context, remember its mission is to defend the rule of law and it’s full of lawyers whose lives are focused on law,” he said. “Having toppled the institution dedicated to law, it’ll be easier to topple the ones devoted to things like energy, money and killing.”

He also predicted, however, that Trump would face zero recourse for his actions from the Republican-led Senate, pointing to the president’s recent impeachment acquittal. 

“The morning after learning that Trump has corrupted the Justice Department, Republican Senators will teach him a lesson. It’ll be the same lesson they taught when they acquitted him last week,” he added. 

Several Democratic lawmakers have called for a prompt investigation into whether there was any political interference in the Justice Department’s decision. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has demanded that Barr testify before Congress about the sentencing reversal.

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