Donald Trump and Roger Stone (File)
Longtime Donald Trump friend, dirty tricks specialist, and Trump-Russia operative Roger Stone is given 30 months in prison for lying to Congress and tampering with a witness.
Trump, whose intervention through Attorney General William Barr could not absolve Stone, rails against the sentence. And he also blows up over US intelligence of Russia’s interference in the 2020 election, after its intervention on behalf of Trump in 2016.
Stone was the Trump campaign’s informal liaison with WikiLeaks in 2016 as the organization published e-mails stolen by Russia, in an attempt to damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He was convicted of trying to cover up his involvement through his lies, and of threatening an associate in the operation.
Last week, amid a Trump tweet about “miscarriage of justice”, Barr instructed senior Justice Department staff to overrule the recommendation of four prosecutors for a sentence of 7 to 9 years. The filing did not suggest a length, but asked for leniency for Stone as an elderly first-time offender.
However, Judge Amy Berman Jackson not only handed down the sentence and a stinging rebuke of Stone; she implicitly criticized Trump over his interference.
The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party.
The dismay and disgust at any attempt to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party.
She said of Stone, “He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
Then, in a remark echoing the summary of House managers in Trump’s impeachment trial, she said, “The truth still exists. The truth still matters….[Otherwise] everyone loses.”
Trump: “Bad Jury”
Facing criticism from legislators and a revolt by Justice Department staff, Barr cautioned Trump after their intervention on behalf of Stone. In a TV interview, he said Trump’s tweet made it “impossible” for him to do his job.
But on Thursday, the replacement prosecutor — all four of the original team withdrew from the case after their sentencing recommendation was overruled — acknowledged that the new filing was inappropriate. And Trump kept railing in public.
Ostensibly honoring graduates at a Hope for Prisoners ceremony, Trump spent 15 minutes rambling about Stone, officials such as former FBI Director James Comey, and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.
He said Stone — a “smart guy” and “good person” liked by “most people” — was the victim of “a bad jury”, led by an “anti-Trump activist”. He appealed to his audience as the supposed victims of “bad juries”.
He lied that Stone was not involved with the 2016 campaign.
And, only two days after issuing 11 clemencies for friends and other high-profile criminals, he said he might keep Stone out of prison if Judge Jackson did not agree to a new trial.
Trump v. US Intelligence Over Russia
Trump has also been infuriated by US intelligence officials warning the Hosue Intelligence Committee that Russia is interfering for Trump’s re-election in November.
The briefing was on February 13. A day later, Trump assailed Joseph Maguire, the outgoing Acting Director of National Intelligence, according to “people familiar with the exchange”. Trump was also angered that Rep. Adam Schiff, the Committee chair and the lead House manager in the impeachment trial, was at the briefing.
Trump complained that Democrats would use the intelligence assessment against him.
On Wednesday, Trump announced that he is replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, a vocal Trump loyalist and the current US Ambassador to Germany.
“Two administration officials” insisted the timing was coincidental. However, Trump is reportedly considering Rep. Doug Collins — who, like Grenell, has no experience in the US intelligence community — as the permanent Director of National Intelligence.
As the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Collins tried to sweep away the evidence in the impeachment hearings, echoing Trump’s declarations of a “witch hunt” and hoax.
In another pointed move, Trump’s camp named Kash Patel, a top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, as an advisor to Grenell.
Nunes worked with the White House to bury the Trump-Russia inquiry, to the point where he was forced to step down as chair of the House Intelligence Committee in spring 2017. Despite the rebuke, he continued the collaboration, producing memoranda deriding the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Working for Nunes, Patel travelled overseas to seek information to damage the inquiry.