Trump ignores outcry and tweets on ally's court sentencing

US President Donald Trump speaks with supporters as he arrives in Palm Springs, California, on February 19, 2020 (AFP Photo/JIM WATSON)

Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump on Thursday brazenly ignored his attorney general's plea to stop tweeting about ongoing court cases, again expressing displeasure with how his longtime ally Roger Stone is being treated in court.

The president questioned the "fairness" in a tweet to his nearly 73 million followers, right as a Washington, DC, federal judge was opening Stone's sentencing hearing.

Stone was convicted in November of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House of Representatives investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to cheat in the 2016 election.

Prosecutors recommended the judge impose a hefty prison sentence of up to nine years, but Trump lashed out on Twitter and the Justice Department climbed down the next day, saying the recommendation was "excessive."

In Thursday's tweet, Trump again scoffed at the case, suggesting that the US court system is biased against his supporters.

"They say Roger Stone lied to Congress. OH, I see," Trump tweeted before listing cases involving opponents like Hillary Clinton that ended without prison terms.

"FAIRNESS?" Trump asked.

The tweet demonstrated Trump's disregard for the outcry sparked by his habit of tweeting about the multiple court cases and investigations plaguing his administration.

Opponents have long accused Trump of breaking the long-held norms of separation between the White House and the judiciary -- allegedly with the aim of protecting himself and his allies.

But the Stone episode, where the president is openly and heavily campaigning on behalf of a convicted ex-associate, pushed even Attorney General Bill Barr to speak out.

Generally seen as a staunch Trump loyalist, Barr took the unusual step one week ago of giving a television interview in which he said the tweeting from the Oval Office was making his job "impossible."

"I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases," Barr told ABC News.