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Roger Stone, friend and former adviser to President Trump, leaves the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia after being sentenced in February in Washington, DC. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Department of Justice inspector general's office has launched an internal investigation into Attorney General Bill Barr's intervention in the sentencing of President Trump's associate Roger Stone, the DOJ confirmed Monday night.

Why it matters: The probe centers around Barr's February decision to seek a lighter sentence after career prosecutors recommended seven to nine years in prison for Stone, who was convicted of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress, NBC News first reported.

  • Career prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky testified before Congress in June that prosecutors were under "heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice" in the case.

The big picture: Trump congratulated Barr for "taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought." Barr has said he made "the right decision" in the case.

What they're saying: Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement to news outlets, "We welcome the review."

  • Stephanie Logan, a spokesperson for DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, would only say to Politico, "Our general practice is to not confirm or deny the existence of any ongoing investigation."

Of note: Stone was the seventh person to be convicted and sentenced for crimes unearthed by former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Go deeper: Roger Stone says he plans to campaign for Trump

Go deeper

Attorney General Barr departs Justice Department

Photo: Michael Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr sent a parting note to his colleagues on Wednesday to mark the end of his time leading the Department of Justice, stating that it's been a "great honor to serve once again in this role," NBC News reports.

What to watch: Barr will be replaced in an acting capacity by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who multiple administration officials privately say now has the worst job in Washington.

Updated Dec 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's pardon spree begins

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Trump began his expected pardon spree on Tuesday, issuing 20 pardons and commutations.

Driving the news: Convicted former GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins — the first two congressmen to endorse Trump in the 2016 election — and Russia probe figures George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan were among the wave of 15 pardons and five commutations.

GOP Sen. Ben Sasse on Trump pardons: "Rotten to the core"

Sen. Ben Sasse during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in October 14. Photo: Hilary Swift-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) issued a terse statement criticizing President Trump for issuing full pardons to 26 more people on Wednesday night, saying: "This is rotten to the core."

Of note: His office set up Sasse's one-line comment by stating that Trump had pardoned "another tranche of felons," specifically naming former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the president's longtime associate Roger Stone, both of whom the statement said "flagrantly and repeatedly violated the law and harmed Americans."