Political Meddling In Stone Sentencing: A Story In Three Tweets & DOJ Implosion

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, Crime, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment


“Made before the Trump Tweet”? I seriously doubt that. Trump’s tweet was at 2 a.m. Clearly, Trump was meddling and Barr’s DOJ got cowed.

Judge Jackson is gonna drop the fucking hammer on this guy. Trump is gonna pardon him anyway but I would like to see the judge bring in the folks at DOJ who did this and explain why.

“Your honor, DOJ’s position on this case is consistent and sanctions are certainly not warranted here. Our position, as we have always stated, is, um, just wait, just a minute … *furiously scrolls through the president’s twitter*, um…”

This is why in previous administrations, the rule was a very clear “the president does not comment on ongoing cases”.

It could be that DOJ now thinks its guideline calculation was too aggressive, or that some enhancements shouldn’t apply. In this case, however, it wasn’t just DOJ that thought 7 1/4 to 9 was the right guideline range – the court probation office did too. From Stone‘s memo:

Whether or not the sentence is inappropriate, now that the president has weighed in to it, every future action by DOJ or the court is now flooded with the perception of partisanship that undermines public trust in the impartiality of the judicial system, whether or not warranted.

I guess now we wait for DOJ to file that they had a Damascene moment on their way back from the courthouse about the guideline appropriateness, the judge will say “wtf ffs, why did you pour gasoline all over this trashfire, now I basically have to impose the guideline sentence”

And then it will be appealed and/or commuted because the sentence was outside of the prosecutorial recommendation, and whichever way you look at it, this is going to be such a dumpster fire of what’s left of DOJ’s credibility.

Jeff Sessions would not, in a million years even on his most partisan day, have allowed for something like this to happen. That’s how bad it is. Bill Barr is unfit for office. He is not upholding his sworn oath to the constitution of the United States. He must go.

UPDATE: Marcy Wheeler, who has been following the trial closely, thinks this is an attempt to keep Stone from talking:

I believe the brazenness of this fight may be a reflection of the damaging information Roger Stone may have about Trump’s own conduct.

The trial itself provided ample evidence of what Mark Meadows considers “collusion” involving Donald Trump personally. It showed the campaign — and probably Trump personally — were working through Stone to optimize the WikiLeaks releases from the very day they came out on June 14, 2016. It showed that Stone was informing Trump personally about his efforts to optimize the releases. After some arm-twisting to adhere to his grand jury testimony, Steve Bannon testified he knew of all this, contrary to some of what he had said in earlier testimony that Trump would learn about. Erik Prince was in the loop. Gates testified that Stone was strategizing with Jared Kushner on all this. And it appears that Paul Manafort was in the loop, too.

But all that really damning evidence came out in a trial that only had to prove that Stone had lied to cover up the actions he took to optimize the release of the WikiLeaks emails. The trial did not need to explain what Stone’s actually back channel was, what he had to do to obtain it, and how involved Trump was in that process. And the trial did not explain it.

Indeed, there’s evidence I’ll lay out at more length in a follow-up that the government chose not to lay out all it knew. That is, it appears the government came to trial prepared to present evidence about the underlying “collusion,” but ultimately decided to hold it back for now.

At multiple times during the trial, however, the prosecution pointed to suspiciously timed phone calls, right before or after Stone discussed WikiLeaks with Gates, Manafort, or Jerome Corsi. Only Stone or Trump can tell us what happened between the two men, what Trump’s actually role in maximizing the degree to which his campaign benefited from Russia’s theft of his opponent’s email.

Immediately after the trial, Stone made an intense effort to get Trump to pardon him, with his wife Nydia appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show to ask directly and a man with a vuvuzela inside the White House calling for a pardon gates.

Since that time, Stone was silent, until the time that the Probation Office provided the sentencing range for the crimes that was built in to the way that Mueller charged this just over a year ago. That is, by charging Stone with witness tampering, Mueller built in the possibility that Stone would be facing the steep sentence recommended yesterday. And that steep sentence may have been envisioned not as the sum of what Stone’s actual actions entailed — certainly every single warrant save the last four showed probable cause that Stone had done far more, but rather as leverage to get Stone to tell what he knows about Trump’s involvement in all this.

Bill Barr was brought in as AG to bury abundant evidence that Trump was personally involved in efforts to maximize the Russian operation, to deny all the ways that Trump did cheat to win. From his initial misleading claims in the wake of the report’s release, he was always suppressing the centrality of Roger Stone in all this.

So it’s fairly safe to conclude that DOJ’s reversal today is not just an effort to prevent a rich white man, Roger Stone, from facing the full consequences of his actions, but to prevent voters from learning what another rich white man did to cheat to get elected.

Yes, ultimately Trump will commute what is left of Roger Stone’s sentence, probably on November 4, just like he fired Jeff Sessions the day after the 2018 election. But I suspect that Roger Stone, rightly, isn’t going to leave anything to chance. And so neither can Bill Barr.

UPDATE: At least one of the career prosecutors are having none of it —

The filing notes that Zelinsky has resigned from the Justice Department “effective immediately.” This confirms what I suspected: Stone sentence recommendation was changed for inappropriate reasons. Ity’s awesome that Zelinsky stood up (though it should be the political appointees who do this and insulate the career prosecutors from politics).

And now…

Barr needs to be subpoenaed _today_ to explain this Stone fiasco. And if he refuses the House needs to send an officer to go get him. This cannot go on.

Former Attorney General weighs in:

Chuck Schumer:

Nice, but I doubt the DOJ will let the IG review their work.

For those wondering, there’s just Michael Marando left on the Stone team. (At 4:47 — we’ll see how long that lasts.)

FINAL UPDATE: And the fourth prosecutor, Michael Marando drops out as well.