WASHINGTON — Roger Stone, a political strategist and friend of Donald Trump’s whom a jury found guilty of lying to Congress and threatening a witness regarding his efforts for the President’s 2016 campaign, will be sentenced Thursday in Washington.
The sentencing will be the culmination of an intense week that provoked a reckoning within the Justice Department. It’s also the near-end of a case that’s had several shocking moments that exposed Mr. Trump’s interest in WikiLeaks during the campaign and, most recently, prompted the President to tweet his support for Stone.
Stone has asked for a sentence of probation. But the Justice Department has advocated he serve prison time. Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the DC District Court has authority to sentence Stone as she sees fit, and may address how the four prosecutors who took Stone’s case to trial quit last week after Justice Department leadership softened its stance toward Stone heading into sentencing.
Prosecutors had initially asked Stone to be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, resting that recommendation on the severity of his crimes and behavior. President Trump called that ask “very unfair,” however, in a late-night tweet. Attorney General William Barr overrode the recommendation the next day, saying seven years in prison would be too harsh a sentence. None of the prosecutors who won the case at trial signed the revised sentencing memo, and two new DC US Attorney’s Office supervisors have stepped up to handle Stone’s sentencing, exposing how politically charged the case has become inside the Justice Department.
Jackson already determined that if sentenced to prison, Stone won’t be detained immediately. He is still challenging his conviction by claiming juror misconduct, and Jackson is separately still considering that request for a new trial.
Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, has developed a reputation for being a thorough judge, especially in handling cases from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. She is likely to revisit the highlights of Stone’s time in court and may address the most recent prosecutor debacle. Previously, she sentenced former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to prison for conspiracy and witness tampering crimes, and his deputy Gates to 45 days in prison for lying to investigators and conspiracy with Manafort.
In many ways, Stone’s case had come to define Mueller’s investigation.
During the campaign, Stone had sought to spread smears about Hillary Clinton and openly bragged of being in touch with WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. Congress called him to testify, and he covered up discussions he had with Trump campaign officials about trying to reach Assange and efforts he made to use another associate of his as a WikiLeaks liaison.
Prosecutors said he lied about his efforts in order to protect the President.
When he was indicted in January 2019, CNN filmed a team of armed FBI agents swarming Stone’s Florida home, arresting him before dawn.
It was the last set of criminal charges Mueller filed before he ended his investigation.
Awaiting trial, Stone amplified conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation on his social media accounts. In February 2019, he posted an image of Jackson with crosshairs behind her head, above a caption that called Mueller a “Deep State hitman.”
Jackson then sharply restricted his social media use and ordered him not to speak publicly about his case, the Mueller investigation and the court.
He went to trial in November and was convicted on on seven counts — telling Congress five lies, obstructing lawmakers from reviewing documents and threatening his acquaintance Randy Credico to pressure him to lie to Congress so as not to expose Stone.
Credico and former top Trump campaign officials Rick Gates and Steve Bannon testified against Stone at trial, with Gates revealing he witnessed a conversation between Trump and Stone where the then-presidential candidate saying he expected more releases of information.
Democrats in the US House have since zeroed in on this testimony as contradictory to what President Trump answered in written questions for the Mueller investigation.