After all was said and done, even Judge Amy Berman Jackson thought a nine-year sentence for Roger Stone was excessive, and on Feb. 20, Stone was sentenced to just three years and four months in prison for making false statements, obstruction and witness tampering arising from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into 2016 Russian election interference.
Making the hullabaloo surrounding President Donald Trump’s tweet calling nine years a “miscarriage of justice” much ado about nothing.
The tweet appeared to prompt Attorney General William Barr to suggest the President commenting on cases makes it “impossible” for him to do his job. Still, he had the Justice Department amend its recommendation for Stone downward to far less than nine years.
And the judge agreed, proving President Trump and Attorney General Barr were right all along, that prosecutors’ initial recommendation for seven to nine years for Stone was way too much — more than some violent felons get — and that the Justice Department was justified in walking back that recommendation.
Also, it turned out to be not so impossible for Barr to get his job done, since the judge came to the same conclusion that both Trump and Barr had.
To think, this may yet be the basis for House Democrats to come back and try to impeach President Trump again for something that is not a crime. When asked about Trump commenting on the Stone sentencing, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “We’re not going to take our options off table.”
That, even though having an opinion on a case is not a crime, it’s free speech.
Moreover, under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, the executive power is solely vested in the President, and under Article II, Section 3, the President “shall… take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” It’s President Trump’s job to enforce the laws and to direct subordinates in the executive branch, whether the Attorney General or U.S. Attorneys.
Under Article II, Section 2, Trump could pardon Stone or commute his sentence.
So, even if Trump had directed Barr to reduce the sentencing recommendation, it would neither be inappropriate nor illegal.
Same deal with Barr having the sentencing recommendation amended. Under 28 U.S. Code § 519 the Attorney General supervises all prosecutions and prosecutors: “the Attorney General shall supervise all litigation to which the United States, an agency, or officer thereof is a party, and shall direct all United States attorneys, assistant United States attorneys, and special attorneys appointed under section 543 of this title in the discharge of their respective duties.”
Meaning if either Trump or Barr believe that the Justice Department is acting maliciously against an individual, even if he is the President’s friend, it is their duty to intervene. The same could be said for the Michael Flynn or George Papadopoulos cases, who were targeted by the Russia investigation and ended up being prosecuted for process crimes arising from the investigation itself.
The entire basis for the investigation into the Trump campaign were those false allegations that they were Russian agents. That was the only reason to look at Stone and other persons in Trump’s orbit. That’s why they were targeted — but it was all made up, a political operation to damage Trump and anyone who might help him.
Stone might even be entitled to a new trial, after it was revealed the jury foreperson was an anti-Trump Democratic activist who had a clear bias that should have disqualified her from being on the jury, let alone leading it.
If that does not merit a lenient sentence, pardons or commutations, I don’t know what does, for if President Trump does not look at these miscarriages of justice for potential pardons, no future president is going to do it. This is why the Framers put the pardon power into the Constitution.
And it is up to Attorney General Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham to get to the bottom of the investigation that started it all. Now that these cases are almost past us — the Flynn sentencing remains — if laws were broken by government officials to falsely accuse Trump and his campaign of being Russian agents, then prosecutions must follow, or else the laws need to be reformed to prohibit this sort of malicious, false, political targeting — so that this never happens again.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.