WASHINGTON — Roger Stone, a longtime friend and political adviser to President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in prison.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she felt the original recommendation for seven to nine years was too much. However, she added that probation, as the defense wanted, was too lenient.
The judge also called Trump's public comments on the case inappropriate, but said she wouldn't be influenced by them one way or the other.
The big question that remains is whether Trump will pardon Stone. During a Hope for Prisoners commencement address on Thursday, President Trump said he will watch the process surrounding Stone's case.
"I'm not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States, I want the process play out, I think that's the best thing to do," Trump said in Las Vegas during the event. "Because I'd love to see Roger exonerated and I'd love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly."
Stone was convicted in November 2019 of obstruction, false statements, and witness tampering. He was indicted as part of the probe by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump injected himself into the Stone case last week when he took to Twitter to blast the 7-to-9-year sentence recommended by prosecutors in the case. Hours later, the Department of Justice said that recommendation was being dialed back while claiming Trump's tweet had nothing to do with the decision. All four prosecutors quit the case that same day, giving no reason why, and one of them resigned from the Justice Department altogether.
That was the start of a 10-day firestorm with reports that Attorney General William Barr was going to start personally getting involved in criminal cases of interest to Trump. Trump on Tuesday declared himself America's chief law enforcement officer, a title usually reserved for the attorney general. And Trump has called for the Stone case to be thrown out.
It's raised concerns that the White House is now politicizing the Department of Justice.
About 2,600 former federal justice officials, trial attorneys, legal assistants and others in the profession have signed a petition urging current officials to adhere to their oaths and even refuse orders that conflict with that oath Barr's former deputy wrote an op-ed Monday calling on his ex-boss to resign or be impeached. An independent association of more than 1,000 federal judges and jurists held an emergency meeting Tuesday.
Multiple reports say Barr has thought about resigning due to Trump's involvement, but a DOJ spokesperson said Tuesday Barr had no plans to leave.
Trump on Tuesday also handed down 11 pardons or commutations for people convicted in a variety of crimes. But they all had a common thread — they had advocates among the president’s wealthy friends and political allies. In at least some cases, Trump has personal relationships with those granted clemency. Rather than relying on carefully vetted recommendations from Justice Department lawyers, Trump appears to have instead relied on GOP mega-donors, celebrities and Fox News personalities who personally vouched for those he picked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.