The Senate's top Democrat is calling on the Justice Department's internal watchdog to investigate the law enforcement agency's move to recommend a lesser prison sentence for Roger Stone, President Trump's longtime informal adviser and confidant.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, made the request in a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Monday evening after top Justice Department officials overruled the recommendation of prosecutors that Stone serve between seven and nine years in prison. Stone was found guilty in November of seven charges, including lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction.
The move by the Justice Department prompted a mass exodus of all four prosecutors involved in Stone's case. One of those government lawyers, Jonathan Kravis, resigned his post at the Justice Department entirely.
"This situation has all the indicia of improper political interference in a criminal prosecution," Schumer wrote to Horowitz.
The New York Democrat requested the Justice Department's internal watchdog look into how and why Stone's sentencing recommendations were countermanded, who at the Justice Department made the decision, and who at the White House was involved.
"The American people must have confidence that justice in this country is dispensed impartially," Schumer wrote. "That confidence cannot be sustained if the president or his political appointees are permitted to interfere in prosecution and sentencing recommendations in order to protect their friends and associates."
The case against Stone stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Federal prosecutors initially recommended Stone serve between seven and nine years in the interest of "general deterrence," but a senior Justice Department official told CBS News the department was "shocked" by the severity of the suggested punishment.
The Justice Department recommended in a new sentencing memorandum Tuesday that Stone should serve prison time, but backed away from the earlier request.
The shift from the Justice Department prompted scrutiny over whether there was interference from the White House, as the move came after Mr. Trump tweeted about Stone's case Monday night, saying it was a "horrible and very unfair situation."
"Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice," the president said in his tweet.
But the president told reporters that while he thought the recommendation from prosecutors was "ridiculous," he wasn't involved in the matter. Likewise, the Justice Department denied there had been any communication with the White House.