A federal prosecutor in the criminal case against longtime President Donald Trump associate and GOP operative Roger Stone abruptly resigned Tuesday shortly after the Department of Justice said it will force prosecutors to cut their recommended prison sentence for the longtime Trump ally.
Aaron Zelinsky’s resignation as a special assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., was announced in a footnote of a court filing notifying a judge that he was withdrawing as a prosecutor in Stone’s case, reports CNBC.
“This Court is advised that the undersigned attorney has resigned effective immediately after this filing as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia,” the filing said.
Late Monday night, the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the judge in a filing that Stone should get a prison term of seven to nine years when he is sentenced Feb. 20 for crimes related to lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election and his efforts to get an associate, comedian Randy Credico, to cover for his lies.
Zelinsky, who previously worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, was one of four prosecutors who signed that sentencing memorandum.
But DOJ officials objected to the recommended prison term for Stone shortly after it became public and now plan to recommend a lower sentence later Tuesday in court.
Trump early Tuesday morning blasted the original recommended sentence for Stone, calling it “disgraceful” and also tweeting that “this is a horrible and very unfair situation.”
This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice! https://t.co/rHPfYX6Vbv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2020
It is highly unusual for the DOJ to reverse a sentencing recommendation after it has been made by prosecutors in a U.S. Attorney’s office that has prosecuted a defendant. The Justice Department is headed by Trump’s appointee, William Barr.
The new U.S Attorney for the District of Columbia, Timothy Shea, joined the office in the past two weeks. He previously was a close adviser to Barr at the Justice Department.
Grant Smith, an attorney for Stone, told CNBC, “We’ve read with interest the new reporting on Mr. Stone’s case.”
“Our sentencing memorandum stated our position on the recommendation made yesterday made by the government. We look forward to reviewing the government’s supplemental filing,” Smith said.