Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison as part of a case that has roiled the Justice Department and drawn the US president’s ire.
Stone was convicted on charges including lying to a congressional panel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election.
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US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down the sentence after Stone’s lawyer asked that the veteran Republican operative receive no prison time.
Stone’s belligerence and lies represent “a threat to our democracy”, the judge said in a stern lecture during the hours-long sentencing hearing.
“He was not prosecuted – as some have complained – for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president,” Jackson said.
“There was nothing unfair, phoney or disgraceful about the investigation or the prosecution,” Jackson added, citing words that Trump has used.
The judge also said Stone “knew exactly what he was doing” when he posted an image on social media last year that positioned a gun’s cross-hairs over her head.
“The defendant engaged in threatening and intimidating conduct toward the court,” Jackson said.
“This is intolerable to the administration of justice,” she added.
‘Not one isolated incident’
The initial sentencing memo by the original prosecutors in the case that called for seven to nine years in prison – later reversed by the Justice Department after Trump complained publicly – was thorough and well researched, the judge said, but added that such a sentence would be “unnecessary” for Stone.
Stone, who still has a sealed pending motion requesting a new trial, declined to speak at his sentencing hearing.
Stone’s lawyer, Seth Ginsberg, said Stone’s career as a self-described “dirty trickster” overshadowed other aspects of a spiritual man with no prior criminal record who has served as a mentor, loves animals and is devoted to his family.
“Mr Stone is, in fact, not simply that public persona, but a human being,” he said.
Jackson also said she would not discount tougher sentencing guidelines that apply to witness tampering and obstruction, which were among the seven criminal counts on which Stone was convicted in November.
The judge noted that Stone was not charged with or convicted of having any role in conspiring with Russia. But the judge said Stone’s effort to obstruct a congressional investigation into Russian election meddling “was deliberate, planned – not one isolated incident.” The investigators were not some “secret anti-Trump cabal,” the judge said, but members of Congress from both parties at the time when the committee was controlled by the president’s fellow Republican.
A jury of nine women and three men convicted Stone, 67, on November 15 on all seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. The charges stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation which detailed Russian meddling in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy. Stone was one of several Trump associates charged in Mueller’s inquiry.
Prosecutors said Stone lied to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks, the website that released damaging emails about Trump’s Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton that US intelligence officials have concluded were stolen by Russian hackers.
An inflatable rat depicted as US President Donald Trump is seen outside federal court, next to a sign demanding a pardon for Stone [Leah Millis/Reuters]
Trump, who on Tuesday granted clemency to prominent convicted white-collar criminals including financier Michael Milken and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, has sidestepped questions about whether he will pardon Stone.
“We’re going to see what happens,” Trump said on Tuesday.
Trump, emboldened after his Senate acquittal in his impeachment trial, has attacked the prosecutors, jurors and judge in Stone’s case. After prosecutors last week recommended that the judge sentence Stone to serve seven to nine years in prison, Trump blasted them as “corrupt” and railed against this “miscarriage of justice”.
Attorney General William Barr intervened and the Justice Department withdrew the sentencing recommendation, prompting the four prosecutors to resign from the case. Congressional Democrats have accused Trump and Barr of politicising the criminal justice system and threatening the rule of law.
Trump kept up his attacks even after Barr said in an ABC News interview that Trump’s comments “make it impossible for me to do my job”. Barr has considered stepping down, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Stone, who has also labelled himself an “agent provocateur” and famously has the face of former President Richard Nixon tattooed on his back, was arrested in January 2019 in a pre-dawn FBI raid on his Florida home.
He repeatedly pushed the boundaries set by Jackson. He violated her orders not to talk about the case or post on social media, and the judge accused him of “middle school” behaviour. At one point, Stone posted an image of Jackson on Instagram with what looked like the crosshairs of a gun over her head, later apologising to the judge in court.
The sentencing caps a roller coaster of a case that featured references to the 1974 film The Godfather Part II, a Bernie Sanders impression and testimony from figures in Trump’s political inner circle including former White House strategist Steve Bannon and former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates.
Roger Stone plans to help Donald Trump get reelected
Roger Stone, who won a reprieve from prison time after the White House announced late Friday that President Trump was commuting his 40-month prison sentence, now says he plans to campaign for Mr. Trump if it will help the president’s reelection chances. “I will do anything necessary to elect my candidate, short of breaking the…
Roger Stone, who won a reprieve from prison time after the White House announced late Friday that President Trump was commuting his 40-month prison sentence, now says he plans to campaign for Mr. Trump if it will help the president’s reelection chances.
“I will do anything necessary to elect my candidate, short of breaking the law,” Stone told Axios in an interview published Monday.
Stone reiterated that sending him, a 67-year-old asthmatic, to prison during the coronavirus pandemic would be a “death sentence.”
He also said he plans to write a book “to put to bed the myth of Russian collusion.”
Stone said he had no assurances that his sentence would be commuted before Mr. Trump called him on Friday evening.
“But I had prayed fervently … and I believe the whole matter was in God’s hands and that God would provide. And He did,” he said.
The White House late Friday announced that Mr. Trump was commuting the sentence of Stone, who was convicted on seven criminal counts last year.
Those charges included lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia ahead of the 2016 election.
Democrats slammed the move, saying it fit into a pattern of Mr. Trump’s rewarding his cronies at the expense of the U.S. doctrine of equal justice under the law.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Stone’s prosecution by “overzealous Special Counsel prosecutors” was “an outgrowth of the Obama-Biden misconduct.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said he plans to call Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify after Mr. Mueller defended his office’s handling of the case in a Washington Post opinion piece over the weekend.
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Adam Schiff on Roger Stone clemency: Americans who care about rule of law ‘nauseated’
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Sunday said people who care about the rule of law should be “nauseated” by President Trump’s decision, announced late Friday, to commute the sentence of longtime friend and confidante Roger Stone. “I think anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country is nauseated by the…
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Sunday said people who care about the rule of law should be “nauseated” by President Trump’s decision, announced late Friday, to commute the sentence of longtime friend and confidante Roger Stone.
“I think anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country is nauseated by the fact that the president has commuted the sentence of someone who willfully lied to Congress, covered up for the president, intimidated witnesses, obstructed the investigation,” Mr. Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Mr. Schiff, California Democrat, said Stone was an “intermediary” for Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian intelligence.
“This effort to get and use foreign assistance is what Roger Stone had information on and he lied to cover up and protect the president,” he said. “The president threw this commutation as basically saying, if you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you have my back then I will make sure that you get a ‘get out of jail free’ card.”
“Other Americans – different standard. Friends of the president, accomplices of the president – they get off scot-free,” Mr. Schiff said.
Mr. Trump on Saturday said Stone was treated “horribly” and “very unfairly” and denied that he had gone against the advice of Attorney General William P. Barr in granting clemency.
“Take a look at Biden, Sleepy Joe. Take a look at Obama,” Mr. Trump said.”And they spied on Donald Trump’s campaign. Those are the people — let me just tell you something: those are the people that should be in trouble.”
Stone was convicted on seven criminal counts last year, including lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a Congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia ahead of the 2016 election.
He was sentenced to more than three years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded by saying Congress should pass a law saying presidents cannot issue a pardon to a person who is in jail for protecting the president.
Host George Stephanopoulos suggested that such a law might be unconstitutional and Mr. Schiff declined to offer his support.
“There are things that we can do to discourage the abuse of the pardon power,” he said.
He noted that he introduced a bill saying that if a president pardons someone in a case in which they are a witness, subject, or target Congress will then have access to the complete investigative files in the case.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post over the weekend defending his office’s prosecution of Stone.
“The jury ultimately convicted Stone of obstruction of a congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness. Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison. But his conviction stands,” Mr. Mueller said.
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