President Donald Trump appeared to acknowledge in a Wednesday tweet that he had encouraged Attorney General William Barr to intervene in the sentencing of Trump’s longtime friend and political mentor Roger Stone. In the words of Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent, Trump was engaging in a “straight-up celebration” of Barr “doing the president’s political bidding.”
But another longtime political journalist, former U.S. News and World Report contributing editor John Stoehr, saw an even darker motive, according to an essay published on the journalist’s own site, The Editorial Board.
Trump, Stoehr warned, may be preparing to take revenge on Robert Mueller by ordering Barr to prosecute and even jail the former special counsel. Mueller led a two-year investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s connections with Russia, and whether Trump was complicit in the Russian government’s election interference campaign designed to aid Trump’s election.
In his Wednesday tweet, Trump repeated his often-made claim that Mueller’s investigation was “improperly brought and tainted.” But in the Twitter post, he took the accusation a step further. Trump accused Mueller of lying to Congress.
The tweet also gave “congratulations” to Barr for intervening in the Stone case. The self-described Republican dirty trickster was convicted late last year of obstructing a congressional investigation and tampering with a witness in his case. But when prosecutors requested a seven-to-nine year sentence for Stone, Trump called the recommendation “horrible and very unfair.”
According to Stoehr, Barr intervened to pull back the sentencing recommendation, leading the four prosecutors on the case — two of whom had worked on Mueller’s Russia investigation team — to quit.
Mueller concluded in his report, which remains available online via The New York Times, that the Russian government sabotaged the 2016 election in order to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton and promote Trump. According to Stoehr, that finding went directly to Trump’s “greatest fear,” which is being seen as an “illegitimate” president.
Feeling freed by his impeachment acquittal last week, according to Stoehr, “Trump seems ready to ‘prove’ he’s a legitimate president even if it means investigating, prosecuting and jailing the man who discovered the truth.”
But it was not until Wednesday morning’s tweet that Trump made it clear he has “Mueller in his crosshairs,” Stoehr wrote.
In Sargent’s Post column, former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich said that Trump “has utter disregard for our system” of justice and poses “an existential threat to the institutions” that comprise that system.
Bromwich called for the House to open hearings into Barr’s sudden meddling with the Stone sentencing recommendation, and Trump’s role behind the scenes.