The Federal government has the responsibility to investigate, prosecute, and punish those who have been found in violation of our laws. When the target of that effort is a personal acquaintance of the President, who controls the executive branch doing the prosecuting, things get sticky with the inherent conflict of interest. Which brings us to the curious case of Roger Stone.
Stone was convicted of seven felony counts of obstructing Congress in its Russia investigation, including witness tampering. Former U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy called the charges a “ridiculously overblown, overcharged prosecution” led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel–the same special counsel who found no evidence of collusion, with or without the cooperation of Roger Stone.
Laying that aside for a few moments, Stone was prosecuted, tried, and found guilty by a jury. In the sentencing phase, prosecutors asked for seven to nine years in prison for a 67-year-old political manipulator. Trump was nonplussed (“who knows what they might do to me when I’m no longer president?” might be going through his head). Indeed, to the casual observer, this seems excessive and even vindictive for a non-violent process crime not involving bribery or financial corruption.
Trump did more than tweet about this: he had his Attorney General William Barr get involved, which led to all four prosecutors’ withdrawal from the case. To clarify: only one career prosecutor actually resigned, the rest simply left the case. This has widely been reported as “four prosecutors quit the case” which could be interpreted as they all resigned in protest, which did not happen.
It’s actually appropriate for these attorneys to withdraw after their draconian sentencing request was reversed by the DOJ. What else could they do?
But there’s more here, and possibly this is why Barr is personally involved. Of all the journalists in the world, Mike Cernovich (of Alex Jones InfoWars fame) actually got a legitimate scoop. Fox News reported: The Stone jury foreperson, Tomeka Hart, admitted she’s a virulent anti-Trump activist. She posted social media anti-Trump screeds even during the trial and the deliberation.
Meanwhile, it emerged that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson [no relation to me–ed] had denied a defense request to strike a potential juror who was Obama-era press official with admitted anti-Trump views — and whose husband worked at the same Justice Department division that handled the probe leading to Stone’s arrest. And, another Stone juror, Seth Cousins, donated to former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and other progressive causes, federal election records reviewed by Fox News show.
That there was a bias against Trump–and therefore Trump’s friend Stone–in this trial amplifies the problem of seeking a maximum sentence. If this occurred under Obama, where one of Obama’s friends was given a maximum sentence by conservative judges and prosecutors, you bet that Eric Holder would be on the plane to give a press conference at the courthouse. You bet that the prosecutors would be removed from the case, and you bet that the media would be reporting on the travesty of justice in a kangaroo court.
But now we’re hearing about presidents being above the law once again. You know, I think Roger Stone did everything he was convicted of. I think if the jury consisted of truly impartial people who neither hated Trump or had lifetime tickets on the Trump Train, that they’d find Stone guilty of all the charges. I also think that jail time for what Stone did is beyond the pale. Fine him, give him probation, and move on.
Let’s get back to the politics. Mueller brought this case against Stone, possibly to crack Stone to turn on Trump. That’s Meuller’s M.O. in investigations. Regardless, it didn’t work. But Stone’s prosecution happened anyway, because “prosecutors gonna prosecute.” If the judge had been more fair in her allowing the defense’s jury strike, if the foreperson of the jury hadn’t been a rabid anti-Trumper, if the prosecutors had been reasonable about sentencing, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
What to do about Roger Stone? Let Barr have his say. I think the man deserves a retrial, but that’s a matter for an appellate judge to decide. In the meantime, no, Stone should not go to jail, whether you think he deserves it or not.
Saying the president is above the law for doing what presidents have the plenary power to do–Trump could pardon Stone if he wanted–is not a solid argument. If Trump starts throwing people in jail without a trial, or with a kangaroo court, then you can say he’s above the law. I’d rather err on the side of Stone’s freedom than capriciously sentence him to what might be life in prison. The law exists to protect us from the government, after all.
One final thought: let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton was the recipient of plenty of lenience, and secret meetings in airplanes, with merely a wink and a nod by Obama and the fawning media. The New York Times briefly mentions Obama’s “notable exception” before reverting to Orange Man Bad comparing Trump’s continual fights with Obama’s one time.
Gag me with a spoon.
The Roger Stone affair, the media handling of it, does nothing but remind me, and voters, why Trump is in the swamp in the first place.