A federal judge sentenced Roger Stone — a longtime GOP operative and confidant to President Trump — to three years and four months in prison for several charges, including lying to Congress about Wikileaks-related matters in the House’s Russian election interference probe.
The sentence may not be the final word on Stone’s punishment, as he has already launched an effort to demand a new trial and Trump has suggested that he has not ruled out a pardon for his friend and former adviser.
In recent days, Stone’s case has become a flash point for concerns that Trump is exerting inappropriate influence on the Justice Department. First, early last week, Trump tweeted angrily about the prosecutors’ handling of the case. Then, the Department watered down its recommendation to the judge that Stone serve seven to nine years in jail. That prompted the entire team of career DOJ attorneys who had been leading Stone’s prosecution to withdraw from the case. Attorney General Bill Barr has claimed his decision to reverse the recommendation was not inspired by the President’s public dismay.
But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that Stone deserved 40 months in prison for the false statements and the other ways he meddled with the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation in 2017 and 2018. In addition to the false statement charges, a jury in November convicted Stone of witness tampering and obstruction of Congress.
Stone was given 40 months on count one (obstruction of proceeding), 12 months on counts two through six (making false statements), which will be served concurrently, as well as 18 months for count seven (witness tampering), also served concurrently,
“This effort to obstruct investigation was deliberate, planned, not an isolated incident, and conducted” over a considerable about of time, Berman Jackson said before handing down the sentence Thursday.
“He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the President, he was prosecuted for covering up for the President,” she added.
The one-week trial revealed that Stone had several contacts with then-candidate Trump amid, according to witness testimony, an effort by Stone to provide the campaign with information about Wikileaks’ plans to release damaging emails about Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.
Stone misled the House about key aspects of that effort and then, using threatening language, sought to discourage another witness who could expose those lies from testifying.
During the sentencing hearing Berman Jackson took a direct shot at the sentencing memo debacle, suggesting that prosecutor John Crabb didn’t know a lot about the case or the trial, and probably knew less about the case than anyone else in the courtroom – besides Seth Ginsburg, Stone attorney who recently joined his team.
“Anything you’d like to say about why you’re the one standing here today?” she asked Crabb, who apologized for the confusion and said it was not caused by the trial team. He said their initial memo had the authorization of the U.S. Attorney in D.C. Though there was consultation between the U.S. Attorney and Main Justice, there was ultimately a “miscommunication” between the U.S. Attorney and Attorney General Barr, Crabb said.
Calling the DOJ’s sentencing memo reversal “unprecedented,” Berman Jackson said she still would not have given Stone the seven to nine year sentence.
Special counsel Robert Mueller brought the charges against Stone in January 2019. The case was handed off to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. when Mueller completed his probe, and veterans of Mueller’s team remained involved in its day-to-day proceedings. Stone found himself in hot water with the judge on several occasions leading up to his trial for his repeated violation of her gag order in the case, prompting her to ban his use of social media for the duration of the proceedings.
In their effort to prove to the jury the allegation that Stone lied to Congress, prosecutors shed new light on the push by Trump’s allies — and Trump himself — to weaponize the Democratic emails that had been hacked and disseminated by Russian actors.
Stone was convicted for lying to the House specifically about his attempts to use a backchannel intermediary to communicate with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and about what he told the Trump campaign of those efforts. He was also convicted for lying about possessing Wikileaks-related documents and communications that the House demanded.
The witness tampering conviction stems from threats he lobbed at radio host Randy Credico to dissuade Credico from testifying in the House’s inquiry. Stone had told House investigators that Credico was who Stone had been referring to when he bragged in 2016 about having a backchannel to Wikileaks. According to prosecutors, the Stone actually sought to use far-right conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi as a backchannel to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Since the jury decided to convict Stone of all the charges the DOJ brought, Stone has tried to secure a new trial. His first request to do so was rejected by Judge Jackson earlier this month. Another request, alleging juror conduct, was filed last week, though the details of the allegations remain under seal.
Meanwhile, Trump has fanned the flames around baseless allegations — speculated to be the basis of Stone’s new claims — that a juror was biased against him.
Judge Berman Jackson decided on Tuesday to hand down Thursday’s sentence before that request was dealt with, but said she will delay the sentence’s execution until she resolved that request.
Stone, 67, has been a notorious figure in Republican politics for several decades, earning a reputation as a dirty trickster during his work for the 1972 Nixon campaign. In the 1980s, Stone worked as a lobbyist at a firm with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was also prosecuted by Mueller. He’s known Trump for more than four decades, and reportedly encouraged his presidential run. Even after Stone officially parted ways with the Trump campaign in August 2015, he remained in contact with Trump, according to the records shown at his trial.
At earlier points in the Russia probe, Trump distanced himself from Stone, but the President has in recent days embraced the idea that Stone had been unfairly prosecuted.
“They say Roger Stone lied to Congress.” @CNN OH, I see, but so did Comey (and he also leaked classified information, for which almost everyone, other than Crooked Hillary Clinton, goes to jail for a long time), and so did Andy McCabe, who also lied to the FBI! FAIRNESS?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2020
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2020
…..existence of these tweets in which you were so harshly negative about the President & the people who support him. Don’t you think we wanted to know that before we put you on this jury.’ Pretty obvious he should (get a new trial). I think almost any judge in the Country…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2020
Trump on Tuesday denied that he had given “any thought” to pardoning Stone. When asked by a reporter whether Stone deserved prison time, Trump said, “You’re going to see what happens. Let’s see what happens.”