Roger Stone arriving for his sentencing hearing. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to 4o months in prison for crimes that include obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering.
Why it matters: Stone is the seventh person to be convicted and sentenced for crimes unearthed by former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. His case has been at the heart of ongoing tensions between President Trump and his Justice Department.
- The decision comes after the case's new federal prosecutors largely argued Thursday within the parameters of the Justice Department's original seven-to-nine-year sentencing recommendation for Stone.
- The new lead prosecutor told the judge that he could not discuss the circumstances that led to or who wrote a revised sentencing recommendation that argued for significantly less prison time, per Vox's Andrew Prokop.
What they're saying: Judge Amy Berman Jackson said just prior to his sentencing that Stone "was not prosecuted for standing up for the president, he was prosecuted for covering up for the president." She also said that he "will not be sentenced for who his friends are, or who his enemies are."
- "The truth still matters. Roger Stone's insistence that it doesn't" poses a threat to "the very foundation of this democracy," she added.
The backdrop: A federal jury convicted Stone last year after he lied to Congress about his efforts to learn more about when WikiLeaks would publish damaging emails about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
- Last week, the Justice Department submitted a new sentencing recommendation for Stone, recommending less than the seven to nine years in prison originally suggested by career prosecutors without providing specifics.
- The Justice Department's move came after Trump tweeted that the original recommendation was a "miscarriage of justice" that he "cannot allow," though the president denied speaking with Justice officials about the case.
- The four career prosecutors who tried Stone withdrew from the case after the revised recommendation was submitted, prompting Trump to congratulate Attorney General Bill Barr for "taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought."
The big picture: Both the sentencing about-face and Trump's continued comments on Stone's case have led to headaches for Barr.
- Congressional Democrats and former Justice Department officials have scrutinized the revised sentencing recommendation, calling it evidence of political interference.
- Barr said in an ABC News interview last week that Trump's tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job." Trump responded — via Twitter — that he has "the legal right" to ask Barr to intervene in criminal cases but has "so far chosen not to."
- Earlier this week, multiple media reports indicated that Barr was considering resigning over the issue, though his spokesman later denied them.
Worth noting: It remains to be seen whether Trump will move to pardon Stone. The president claimed that he "hadn't given it any thought" when asked about the possibility after he granted clemency to nearly a dozen individuals earlier this week.
- Trump tweeted in the midst of the hearing, claiming without evidence that Hillary Clinton and former FBI officials James Comey and Andrew McCabe also lied to Congress.
- Stone has already filed to request a new trial, which will delay his reporting date to prison until it is resolved— granting the president additional time to act.
What they're saying: At an event for graduates of the Hope for Prisoners program, Trump signaled that he would wait for Stone's appeal to play out before acting: "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 to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I would love to see Roger exonerated."
- He also accused the jury forewoman of being tainted by anti-Trump social media posts: "Roger Stone and everybody have got to be treated fairly and this has not been a fair process."