President Trump adopted as his own attacks on the foreperson of the jury in the prosecution of GOP provocateur Roger Stone on Thursday, bringing his interference in the case of a former campaign adviser to a new level.
Trump appears to have been triggered by attacks in the right-wing press that began to percolate Wednesday night, attempting to discredit Stone’s guilty verdict on charges of obstruction, witness tampering, and lying to Congress as the product of “bias” on the part of the jury foreperson.
Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the “Justice” Department. @foxandfriends @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 13, 2020
There is no evidence in the public record that Stone’s own attorneys have formally raised any issues with the foreman since the conclusion of the trial.
“The President oughta just butt out of it and let the process work its course,” Mark W. Bennett, a former Iowa federal judge, told TPM. “There are going to be jurors that are Democrats, Republicans, Independents; just because somebody is registered as a Democrat or active in the Democratic party doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be fair in the case.”
The President’s involvement in the case marks a new high water mark in his interference in the criminal justice system to help a longtime ally and associate, in a week already marred by the Justice Department rescinding a sentencing recommendation of 7–9 years for Stone after the President expressed displeasure.
“The President is totally out of control,” William Yeomans, a former deputy assistant attorney general, told TPM, adding that Trump was trying to “rewrite history” and “delegitimize” the convictions that came out of the Mueller investigation.
The current spate of attacks on the jury foreperson come one day after an unsealed order in Stone’s case showed that the GOP operative’s defense team had pushed for a retrial, alleging that another juror in the case was tainted.
The judge quickly denied that request, noting that Stone’s legal team was afforded the chance at the start of the trial to select jurors and remove potential members of the jury.
“When jurors come to court, they don’t have to be totally ignorant, they can be aware of public affairs, they can have lives outside the jury,” Yeomans said. “The only question is whether they are capable of putting aside preconceived beliefs, and coming to an honest conclusion based on the facts and the law,” he added.
Under the federal criminal justice system, Stone’s defense had the same right to do that as prosecutors, all under the supervision of an impartial judge — in this case District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.
The current batch of allegations began to appear late Wednesday evening. The jury foreperson made a Facebook post expressing support for the professionalism of the four prosecutors who resigned in protest from the case this week, thereby revealing her identity.
Right-wing operatives and media organizations immediately jumped on the juror’s background, accusing the person of being an operative of the Democratic Party.
Neither the articles nor President Trump have mentioned that Stone’s attorneys were afforded the opportunity at the start of his November 2019 trial to examine each potential juror in depth, and request that potential jury members that they found unsuitable be removed from the case.
Trump’s decision to sign onto the attack marks not only an escalation in his meddling in the Stone case, but a change in direction; while the President’s actions this week have gone towards preventing federal prosecutors from demanding a tough sentence for Stone, in this case, Trump is directing his attack at the judiciary, a separate branch of government meant to remain impartial.
“In this new Wild West in which we’re living, everybody is open to attack,” Yeomans added. “So jurors may be game, and that’s disturbing, but I hope that the jurors will continue to understand that they are protected, there are safeguards, and they have to decide cases based on the facts and the law.”
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