Roger Stone Gets Over Three Years in Prison for Trump Cover-Up

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20 febr. 2020, 18.43

(Bloomberg) -- Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and Donald Trump associate, was sentenced to 3 years and four months behind bars for lying to Congress and tampering with a witness to protect the president during the Russia investigation.

The sentence is in line with the three-to-four year range recommended by the Justice Department after it overruled the longer term sought by the prosecutors assigned to the case. He was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

Stone’s sentencing Thursday by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington caps a week of political turmoil that followed Trump’s Feb. 11 criticism of the original recommendation that his friend receive a prison term of as many as nine years. The four prosecutors in the case all stepped down after the Justice Department said it was withdrawing their proposal and submitting a new, more lenient one.

Jackson said the case against Stone was clear and explicitly rejected his argument, backed by the Trump, that it was politically motivated. Instead, she said, the prosecution was the result of Stone injecting himself into the election to try to help damage the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

“He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president,” Jackson said. “He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”

Stone was not taken into custody. The judge said Wednesday he would be allowed to remain free while he requests a new trial and pursues other legal options after his sentencing.

The outcome is sure to be picked apart by partisans looking for any sign that Jackson, whom Trump has targeted on Twitter, either caved to the president or pushed back against him by imposing an even tougher sentence. Stone declined to speak at his sentencing, but his lawyer asked that Stone be given no time for the charges on which he was convicted in November.

The government’s reversal on its sentencing recommendation prompted Democratic lawmakers to accuse Trump of using the Justice Department for his own bidding. It also set up a rare clash between the president and his attorney general, William Barr, who complained on television that Trump’s comments were harming the public perception of the Justice Department as impartial.

‘Confusion’ Apology

At the sentencing Thursday, Justice Department lawyer John Crabb apologized to the judge for the “confusion” caused by the withdrawal of the original prosecutors, whom he defended as acting “in good faith.” He said there had been a miscommunication within the department over “what the appropriate filing should be.”

Asking Jackson to impose a tough sentence “without fear, favor or political influence,” Crabb said. “This prosecution is righteous.”

Stone, who is planning to appeal his conviction, has also filed a sealed request for a new trial. Details of the motion aren’t public, but Trump and other Republicans have claimed the jury foreperson was a Democrat biased against Stone. An earlier request for a new trial alleging bias by a different juror was denied by Jackson.

Speculation that Trump will pardon Stone has also swelled since the president issued a slate of high-profile clemencies Tuesday to several well-connected individuals convicted of white-collar crimes. Since his tweet denouncing the original sentencing recommendation for Stone as a “miscarriage of justice,” Trump has continued to criticize the case, including during the sentencing.

Stone was the last person charged during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The case against him included evidence that Trump knew about a plan by WikiLeaks to release emails damaging to Clinton that U.S. intelligence believed were hacked by Russia. Stone lied to Congress to protect the president, prosecutors said.

A federal jury in Washington found Stone guilty in November on all seven counts against him. Others in Trump’s circle who have been convicted or pleaded guilty include his 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; his deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates; his first national security adviser, Mike Flynn; and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Manafort is currently serving a seven-and-a-half-year sentence.

Flynn’s sentencing has been delayed as he seeks to withdraw his guilty plea to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. If the sentencing proceeds, it could set up another clash between Trump, the Justice Department and Democrats.

The charges against Stone stemmed from his September 2017 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, which was also probing Russian meddling.

Trump Phone Call

Stone was accused of withholding from the congressional panel evidence of his conversations with two possible intermediaries with WikiLeaks -- Randy Credico, a comedian and talk show host, and the conservative author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi. Each of the two had communicated with WikiLeaks, the U.S. said, but Corsi was Stone’s real liaison.

Jackson said she factored into Stone’s sentence his “intolerable” social media activity during his trial. Last year she issued two gag orders barring him from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where he had frequently posted comments critical of the Mueller investigation and promoting right-wing conspiracy theories. Stone apologized for one post that included an altered picture of Jackson herself with a pair of cross-hairs over her head.

The U.S. also pursued Stone’s contacts with the campaign. Gates, the 2016 deputy chairman, testified for prosecutors that, during the campaign, he overheard Stone telling Trump over the phone that WikiLeaks planned future releases of emails damaging to Clinton. Trump said in a written response to Mueller that he didn’t recall any such conversations.

Prosecutors summoned Steve Bannon, the chief executive of Trump’s campaign, to tell jurors that he viewed Stone as the campaign’s “access point” to WikiLeaks and its trove of stolen documents. Bannon said Stone bragged of his relationship with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

At a Wednesday hearing in London, where Assange is fighting extradition to the U.S. over charges relating to Wikileaks’ publication in 2010 and 2011 of State Department cables and other classified documents passed to him by Chelsea Manning, lawyers for Assange claimed he was offered a pardon by Trump if he “played ball” over the 2016 emails.

The White House denied the story on Wednesday as “a total lie.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Erik Larson in washington at elarson4@bloomberg.net;Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Anthony Lin, Heather Smith

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