‘I think the president would be better served by never commenting on a pending federal investigations…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Several congressional Republicans broke with President Donald Trump after he publicly criticized the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a former Trump adviser and longtime Republican operative, was found guilty in November of seven charges—including making false statements, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional probe.
Trump should have accepted the DOJ’s original sentence instead of asking Attorney General William Barr to review it, said Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of Trump’s top congressional allies.
Graham said he didn’t think Trump was trying to “bully” the judge who will decide Stone’s sentence, but added that it’s inappropriate to publicly meddle.
“I don’t think he should be commenting on cases in the system, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Graham said, according to The Hill.
Moderate Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska—both of whom voted to acquit Trump on two impeachment charges earlier this month—agreed that Trump “should not have gotten involved,” Collins explained.
“I think the president would be better served by never commenting on a pending federal investigations. I said that back when the Mueller investigation was going on, and it’s certainly the case when you’re at a sentencing stage,” Collins said.
Murkowski went one step further and said the president has no right “determining what the sentences are,” adding that the Democrats concerned with Trump’s “political interference,” as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., dubbed it, might be right.
“I don’t like this chain of events where you have a … proceeding, a sentencing, a recommended sentence, the president weighs in and all of the sudden Justice comes back, says ‘change the deal,'” Murkowski said. “I think most people would look at that and say ‘hmm, that just doesn’t look right.’ And I think they’re right.”
Democrats have already demanded Congress investigate Trump for his comments on Stone’s sentencing, and some have even suggested impeaching the president once again.
“You know, we’re not going to take our options off the table,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN when asked if the committee would launch another impeachment inquiry.
Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, also received criticism for weighing in on pending cases, including a confrontation between police and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, in which Obama said the police had “behaved stupidly.”
During the trial of George Zimmerman, who was accused of murdering trespassing teenager Trayvon Martin as the latter was walking back from a convenience store, unarmed but wearing a hoodie, Obama said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Although the president has unconditional pardoning power—with the exception of himself—when it comes to federal crimes, most prior executives have used them sparingly out of concern for the political fallout that would result from the appearance of impropriety.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.