Sat, 04 Apr 2020

Trump labels Stone trial "unfair," judge hands down sentence

Voice of America
21 Feb 2020, 04:35 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, DC - A federal judge on Thursday sentenced President Donald Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone to 40 months in prison, about half as long as the prosecutors' original recommendation for a term of seven to nine years.

But Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court of Washington ruled that the sentence would not be imposed until Stone has exhausted his efforts for a new trial. Stone's lawyers say he deserves a retrial because one of the jurors who convicted him was biased against Trump.

The sentence amounts to a setback for Stone and Trump, who called the seven to nine years recommended by Justice Department prosecutors "horrible and very unfair," and later praised Attorney General William Barr for "taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and should not have been brought."

The president Thursday again weighed in on the trial on Twitter Thursday before the sentence was announced, suggesting that his conviction on charges of lying to Congress was unfair.

AG's involvement in case questioned

Barr's extraordinary decision last Tuesday to overturn the recommendation prompted four career prosecutors assigned to the case to withdraw in protest, and fueled concerns about the Justice Department's historic independence from political influence.

Congressional Democrats demanded an investigation. More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials called on Barr to resign. And an association of federal judges summoned an emergency meeting to address concerns about political meddling in the country's historically independent system of justice. That meeting was postponed on Wednesday.

Barr has defended his involvement in the case, saying he found the recommended sentence excessive and did not discuss it with Trump. He reportedly threatened to resign this week after Trump defied his request to stop tweeting about the Justice Department. A department spokeswoman said late Tuesday that Barr has no plans to resign.

The charges

Stone was convicted in November 2019 of seven counts of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to Congress about his efforts during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to obtain stolen emails of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton from the anti-secrecy website, WikiLeaks.

Stone, 66, is a veteran Republican operative who helped pave the way for Trump's unforeseen ascent to the White House. A self-described "dirty trickster" with a taste for loud suits and colorful language, Stone has known Trump since the late 1970s and later encouraged Trump to run for president.

Mueller investigation

His criminal case stemmed from former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of suspected ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia during the 2016 presidential election, an investigation Trump continues to blast as a "witch hunt" and a "hoax."

Given Trump's belief that Stone fell victim to a phony investigation, the sentencing has heightened speculation that Trump will issue a pardon to spare his friend any prison time.

Trump has not ruled out pardoning Stone, but in recent days, he's batted away questions about clemency for his friend.

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