The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General has opened an investigation into the lighter sentence requested for Roger Stone earlier this year.
Sources speaking on the condition of anonymity told NBC News that the investigation will focus on the events in February when Stone’s prosecutors say they had been told to seek a lighter sentence for Stone rather than the 7-9 years they initially suggested.
Attorney General William Barr eventually overrode the prosecutors’ recommendation and all four resigned.
In June, Aaron Zelinsky, one of the prosecutors, testified to Congress that the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Timothy Shea told him to recommend a lighter sentence for Stone because of his friendship with President Donald Trump.
He also testified that Shea was “receiving heavy pressure” from the highest levels of the Department of Justice on Stone’s sentence.
One of NBC’s sources said Zelinsky’s comments triggered the IG investigation but it’s not yet known who has been interviewed or if any evidence of wrongdoing was found.
Stone was convicted of seven felonies on charges of lying to Congress and witness intimidation. Prosecutors said he was trying to protect Trump by misleading a Congressional investigation into Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
In July, Trump commuted Stone’s sentence, meaning he would not have to serve the 40-month prison term he got from the court.
Barr on July 28 told the House Judiciary Committee that as Stone is 67 years old, it would not be fair to sentence him to a long time behind bars for a non-violent crime.
The inspector general is independent and must report to Congress. It must also post findings of misconduct publicly and can refer a case to the U.S. Attorney’s office, if warranted.