U.S. judge refuses to delay sentencing of Trump’s ally Roger Stone

(Xinhua/Liu Jie)
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WASHINGTON, /Xinhua/

A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday refused to delay the sentencing of President Donald Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone, in the wake of days of controversy surrounding the Justice Department’s decision to lessen the sentence after the president tweeted about his displeasure with the gravity of the original sentence recommendation.

The sentencing will move forward on Thursday at its originally scheduled time, said U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, though Stone’s defense team asked for a new trial in a sealed motion filed last week.

“I think that delaying this sentence would not be a prudent thing to do under all of the circumstances,” Jackson told a telephone conference with the two sides in open court, while suggesting she would consider Stone team’s motion.

A federal court jury found Stone guilty last November of lying to a House committee about his efforts to find out what WikiLeaks planned to do with hacked emails dealing with Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. The jury concluded that Stone also urged a radio host to lie to Congress about their WikiLeaks conversations.

Career prosecutors initially recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years last week. However, hours after Trump tweeted his displeasure, Attorney General William Barr intervened and directed the Justice Department to submit a new court filing, saying a three-to-four-year sentence would be “more line with the typical sentences imposed” in similar cases.

Four career federal prosecutors resigned in protest afterwards and Barr has been under fire on allegations of “misuse of the criminal justice system” since then.

More than 1,100 former Department of Justice officials have signed a letter saying it is “outrageous” the way Barr interfered in the Roger Stone case, calling the attorney general to resign, local media reported on Monday.

“Political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law,” they wrote.

Barr said on ABC News on Thursday that Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case” but should stop tweeting about the Justice Department because the president’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

An ABC News report, quoting a senior adviser to the president, said later that while Trump is not happy with Barr’s remarks, his confidence in the attorney general remains steadfast.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate what pressure Trump and Barr might have exerted behind the scenes.

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