President Donald Trump praised Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday for "taking charge" of the federal case against Roger Stone - a maneuver that has provoked outrage from congressional Democrats and appeared to prompt the withdrawal of four government prosecutors.
"Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!"
A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment on the president's social media post.
Trump's tweet comes amid escalating tensions at the Justice Department, which ramped up Tuesday after the department backed off a previous sentencing recommendation for Stone, a longtime informal political adviser to Trump.
Federal prosecutors had urged Monday that Stone be sent to prison for seven to nine years for impeding investigations into connections between the Russian government and Trump's 2016 campaign.
But after the president blasted that proposal Tuesday as a "horrible and very unfair situation," the Justice Department submitted a revised filing that offered no specific term for Stone's sentence and stated that the prosecutors' recommendation "could be considered excessive and unwarranted."
By the end of the day, the quartet of attorneys who had shepherded Stone's prosecution had either resigned or notified the court that they were stepping off the case. Trump reprised his attack on their initial sentencing filing Wednesday and suggested the Justice Department lawyers were perhaps "Rogue prosecutors."
"Two months in jail for a Swamp Creature, yet 9 years recommended for Roger Stone (who was not even working for the Trump Campaign)," the president tweeted, making apparent reference to a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide who pleaded guilty in 2018 for lying to the FBI. "Gee, that sounds very fair! Rogue prosecutors maybe? The Swamp!"
Hogan Gidley, the White House's principal deputy press secretary, emphatically denied Wednesday that the president or anyone at the White House pressured the attorney general or other Justice Department officials to reduce Stone's sentence.
"Unequivocally no," he told Fox News, adding that the president "did not interfere here with anything."
"Look, he's the chief law enforcement officer. He has the right to do it. He just didn't," Gidley said of Trump. "He didn't make any comment - didn't have a conversation, I should say, rather, with the attorney general, and that's just ludicrous. It's just another scandal that the Democrats are trying to push forward."