Longtime President Trump confidant, Republican political operative, and convicted criminal Roger Stone was sentenced to more than three years in prison Thursday, just over four months after the swinging "libertine" was found guilty of witness tampering and lying to Congress as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Addressing the court before announcing Stone's sentence of 40 months behind bars (including several 12-month sentences to be served concurrently), U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Amy Berman Jackson described Stone as a "insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention" and reiterated that "he was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president."
Jackson also obliquely acknowledged Trump's frequent attempts to weigh in on Stone's conviction, explaining that "the court cannot be influenced by those comments" and adding that Trump's statements were "entirely inappropriate.”
Stone's sentencing had become a major inflection point for the Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr, who publicly undercut his own employees by overriding the prosecuting attorneys' initial sentencing request of 7-9 years in prison for Stone with a much more lenient recommendation. Barr's interference in the case prompted the resignations of the four line prosecutors who had initially tried Stone's case and spurred more than 1,100 former federal prosecutors to sign a letter demanding his own resignation for, as they put it, "preferential treatment to a close associate of the president."
Admitting that the initial recommendation of 7-9 years was legally and procedurally correct, Jackson nevertheless stated before announcing the sentence that she would not have sent Stone to prison for that long in the first place.
Notably, despite Barr's interference in the case, the newly installed lineup of federal prosecutors arrived in Jackson's courtroom on Thursday with their own, revised sentencing recommendation that included modifications to push the upper limit back toward the initial 7-9 year range — an apparent rebuke, per NBC News's Ken Dilanian, of what Jackson had deemed the "unprecedented actions of the Department of Justice in the past week."
With Stone's sentence finally official, the question now becomes whether Trump — fresh off a Tuesday afternoon spate of pardons and commutations for a host of decidedly questionable recipients — will step in and free his favorite crook in one final sweep of lawfully lawless cronyism.