White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on “America’s Newsroom” on Wednesday that President Trump never spoke to Attorney General Bill Barr about reducing Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone's recommended sentence.
When speaking with reporters later on Wednesday, Gidley stressed that Trump had no involvement in Stone’s sentencing decision, adding that there has been no announcement on whether the president will consider pardoning Stone.
Trump offered "congratulations" to Barr after the Justice Department submitted an amended filing in Stone’s criminal case seeking a lighter sentence for the former Trump campaign adviser than prosecutors first recommended -- a move that comes as Democrats accuse the White House of politicizing the DOJ and career prosecutors are withdrawing from the case in apparent protest.
Federal prosecutors initially suggested a lengthy sentence of between 87 and 108 months in prison on Monday, which Trump called "a horrible and very unfair situation." The following day, the DOJ leadership overruled the prosecutors in the case, submitting a new filing that said the DOJ "respectfully submits that a sentence of incarceration far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment would be reasonable" for Stone.
Democrats vehemently protested the move. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for an Inspector General investigation into the decision to ask for a lighter sentence, and other Democratic senators, like Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., demanded that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hold a hearing and call Barr to testify.
“The Justice Department’s decision to overrule its career prosecutors, immediately after President Trump’s tweet, calls into question the independence and integrity of our legal system,” Harris said in a statement.
“He did not talk to Attorney General Barr about this before the sentence,” Gidley said on Wednesday. “In fact, the attorney general and the DOJ made very clear that they made this decision before any tweet went out.”
“They made this decision on their own because, in fact, they were briefed on something, as they said, from the DOJ, that didn't actually end up happening,” he continued. “They were told something in that sentencing that didn't come to fruition. That’s obviously something the DOJ will have to address.”
Gidley then said, “The president did not interfere here with anything.”
“He’s the chief law enforcement officer, he has the right to do it, he just didn't,” Gidley noted.
A senior DOJ official confirmed to Fox News that senior leadership officials there made the call to reverse the initial sentencing recommendation, saying the filing on Monday evening was not only extreme, but also substantially inconsistent with how the prosecutors had briefed DOJ leadership they would proceed on the case. The "general communication" between the U.S. Attorney's Office and the main DOJ had led senior officials to expect a more moderate sentence, the official told Fox News.
Gidley said the idea that Trump had a conversation with Barr to reduce Stone’s sentence is “just ludicrous.”
“It’s just another scandal that the Democrats are trying to push forward,” he said. “The media loves to try and trash this president.”
“Now that impeachment is over, now that Russia’s over, now that the collusion hoax is done, the illegitimate impeachment sham has finished, they’re [Democrats are] looking for something else to grab onto because they don't want to talk about the successful policies of this president,” he continued.
Stone is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Feb. 20 after his conviction stemming from charges of witness tampering, lying to Congress, and obstruction.
Fox News’ Brie Stimson, Ronn Blitzer and Matt Leach contributed to this report.