Roger Stone, the longtime friend and former campaign adviser to President Donald Trump, is being sentenced today at federal court in Washington amid speculation that Trump could pardon him depending on what happens. Live updates on the Roger Stone case reveal Stone’s arrival at the federal courthouse. Stone arrived with his wife, lawyers and entourage at the federal courthouse. Known for his sometimes flashy attire, he wore a fedora and sunglasses, smiled but said nothing. Some supporters held up a large banner that said “#PardonRogerStone.” Other protesters surrounded him and shouted “traitor!” Some had set up an inflatable rat with a face that resembles that of President Trump.
Department of Justice Recommendation.
Department of Justice prosecutors handling Mr. Stone’s case recommended a 7-9 year sentence and President Donald Trump tweeted an oppositional stance calling the proposed sentence a “miscarriage of justice.” Attorney General William Barr overruled the prosecutors, and the Justice Department called on Judge Amy Berman Jackson to give Stone a much lighter sentence. Shortly after, in an exclusive interview with ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas, Barr warned Trump to stop tweeting and commenting on the case, saying he was making it “impossible” to do his job. Sources have told ABC News that Barr, who called the Stone prosecution “righteous,” is seriously considering resigning.
Stone was convicted of misleading congressional investigators on several key elements of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including communications he had with the Trump campaign about discussions he had about the WikiLeaks dissemination of damaging documents stolen from Democrats during the campaign.
The outcome of today’s court action may have some bearing on some other high profile Department of Justice cases that the President has interests in. It could be a dangerous precedent if the justice system is not allowed to do its job free of bias and prejudicial treatment by the President.
Retired Justice Prosecutor Insight.
Recently retired Justice prosecutors told Government Executive there was little precedent for the department’s political involvement seemingly at the behest of the president. Justice officials often confer with prosecutors at the beginning of cases to decide what to pursue and what charges to bring, they said, but rarely do they remain involved once the case is at trial.
Michael Levy, who served at the Justice Department for 37 years including a stint as a U.S. attorney, called the events “disturbing” and noted that unlike President Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre, the employees involved were career officials. “It is an attack on the career service,” Levy said. He expressed concern that a high rate of turnover at Justice would prevent the department from taking up big cases involving widespread fraud and other crimes. “If you’ve got turnover all the time you’ve got inexperienced people. If you’ve got a case building up, you’ve got no one to pick it up when people leave.”
He added some turnover among political appointees is positive, as fresh perspectives can help identify new priorities or ways of doing things. He explained the career workforce can help political appointees accomplish their goals with their vast institutional knowledge, however, and Trump and Barr’s actions could disrupt that flow of information. “Telling career people you don’t count and you’re going to be overruled by the politicals, it’s not an incentive to stay,” Levy said. The former prosecutors said political supervisors sometimes review sentencing recommendations in high-profile cases, but only to ensure the attorneys are on solid legal ground. Levy suggested Trump was not outraged at the legal guidelines themselves, but instead that they were being applied to his friend.
Change in Perception.
Undermining career Department of Justice personnel and ignoring time spent on casework destroys morale and alters the dynamic of the new talent that will fill positions left vacant after the fallout. Experienced attorneys that are considering federal positions may shy away from the perceived unethical actions expected of them. A change in the United States Presidential Administration after the upcoming elections could have some bearing on the stability of the Department of Justice moving forward.