WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday raised the possibility of suing those involved in prosecuting the Roger Stone case after sharing the opinion of a Fox News commentator who said it is "pretty obvious" that Stone, Trump's longtime political confidant, should get a new trial.
Trump's morning tweets marked his latest efforts to intervene in the case of Stone, who faces sentencing this week on charges of witness tampering and lying to Congress.
Defense lawyers for Stone demanded a new trial Friday, one day after Trump suggested that the forewoman in the federal case had "significant bias."
Trump was referring to Tomeka Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress. Hart has identified herself as the forewoman of the jury in a Facebook post, saying she “can’t keep quiet any longer” in the wake of a Justice Department move to reduce its sentencing recommendation for Stone from the seven to nine years recommended by front-line prosecutors.
Trump later told reporters that he thought Stone had been "treated unfairly" but that he had not given any thought to issuing him a pardon.
Asked if Stone deserves any prison time, Trump demurred, saying, "You're going to see what happens."
During his remarks, Trump also asserted that he, not Attorney General William Barr, is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.
"I'm actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country," Trump said.
In his tweets on Tuesday, Trump quoted at length Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and Fox News commentator who argued that Stone should receive a trial based on "the unambiguous & self outed bias of the foreperson of the jury."
"Pretty obvious he should (get a new trial)," Trump quoted Napolitano as saying. "I think almost any judge in the Country would order a new trial, I'm not so sure about Judge Jackson, I don't know."
Napolitano was referring to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over Stone's case and who has drawn Trump's ire on Twitter for her treatment of another ally of his, Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.
A Justice Department official said later Tuesday that prosecutors have filed under seal a motion opposing Stone's request for a new trial, and the filing was approved by Barr. That would seem to put Barr at odds with Trump.
"This decision was made independent of the White House," said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
In his Trump's tweets - which began about an hour after Napolitano appeared on "Fox & Friends" - he also derided prosecutors in the Stone case as "Mueller prosecutors," a reference to those who worked for special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated possible coordination between Trump's campaign and Russian in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump called that investigation "fraudulent," adding: "If I wasn't President, I'd be suing everyone all over the place. BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL."
All four career prosecutors handling the case against Stone withdrew from the legal proceedings last week - and one quit his job entirely - after the Justice Department signaled it planned to undercut their sentencing recommendation. Two of those prosecutors had worked for Mueller.
Asked about Trump's talk of lawsuits, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Tuesday that "the president's obviously frustrated."
"For three years he has been under attack in one way or the other, and the Mueller report is another example of that," Grisham said during an appearance on "Fox & Friends," during which she also alluded to the Stone case. "I mean the foreperson of a jury was somebody who was very vocal about not liking President Trump or his supporters. . . . That's scary stuff."
Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s and was a key figure in his 2016 campaign, working to discover damaging information on Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
A jury convicted Stone in November on charges of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his efforts to gather damaging information about Clinton. His was the last conviction secured by Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Stone's defense has asked for a sentence of probation, citing his age, 67, and lack of criminal history.
The handling of the Stone case has roiled the Justice Department.
More than 2,000 former department employees signed a public letter over the weekend urging Barr to resign over his handling of the case and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct. At Barr's urging, the Justice Department filed an updated sentencing memo suggesting that Stone should receive less prison time.
During her Fox News appearance, Grisham downplayed the significance of the letter from former Justice Department employees.
"Look, all across government, the president has been saying, and I think it's been proven time and again, there are obstructionists all across this government who are working against the president," Grisham said.
Grisham also dismissed a question about whether Barr might step down.
"That is not something I'm aware of, absolutely not," she said.
In a television interview last week, Barr pushed back against Trump's continuing tweets about the Justice Department, saying that they "make it impossible for me to do my job."
Trump told reporters Tuesday that he agrees with Barr's assessment.
"I do make his job harder," Trump said. "I do agree with that, I do. He's working against a lot of people who don't want to see good things happen, in my opinion."
Asked if Barr can do his job with integrity, Trump said: "The attorney general is a man with great integrity. I chose not to be involved. I'm allowed to be involved. I could be involved if I want to be."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also came to Barr's defense in a joint statement.