Make your home page

Trump ally Roger Stone sentenced to over 3 years in prison

FILE - In this Thursday, March 14, 2019, file photo, Roger Stone, an associate of President Donald Trump, leaves U.S. District Court after a court status conference on his seven charges: one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements and one count of witness tampering, in Washington. On Friday, April 12, 2019, Stone asked a federal judge to compel the Justice Department to turn over a full copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation as part of discovery in his criminal case. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, was sentenced to more than three years in prison Thursday for obstructing a congressional investigation in a case that has sparked fears about presidential interference in the justice system.

Soon after Judge Amy Berman Jackson pronounced sentence, Trump publicly decried Stone’s conviction as unfair and prominent Republican legislators were giving tacit support for a pardon. But Trump said he wasn’t ready to act just yet.

“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 said. “I’m going to watch the process. I’m going to watch very closely. … At some point I’ll make a determination.”

The case was marked by the
Justice Department’s extraordinary about-face on a sentencing
recommendation and a very public dispute between Trump and Attorney
General William Barr, who said the president was undermining the
department’s historical independence and making “it impossible for me to
do my job.”

The president responded by asserting that he was the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”

was convicted in November on all seven counts of an indictment that
accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and
obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign
coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

He was the sixth
Trump aide or adviser to be convicted on charges brought as part of
special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian
interference in the 2016 election.

At sentencing Thursday, Jackson
grilled federal prosecutor John Crabb on the department’s decision to
replace a tough sentencing recommendation for Stone with a more lenient
one, which had prompted the original prosecution team to quit the case.
Trump had called the original recommendation of seven to nine years a
“miscarriage of justice.”

Jackson pointedly told Crabb that he might know less about the case than anyone in the room.

said the evidence clearly showed that Stone testified falsely to
Congress and repeatedly pressured a potential witness to either back up
his lie or refuse to testify.

Near the end, Jackson’s voice rose
in anger as she said that Stone’s entire defense strategy seemed to
amount to “So What?” Stone did not testify and called no witnesses on
his behalf.

“This is NOT campaign hijinks. This was not Roger
being Roger. You lied to Congress,” she told Stone. “The dismay and
disgust … at the defendant’s actions in our polarized climate should
transcend (political) parties.”

She sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison, plus two years’ probation and a $20,000 fine.

remained largely expressionless throughout the proceedings. As he left
the Washington, D.C., courthouse and got into a black SUV without
speaking to reporters, crowds of protesters engaged in dueling chants of
“Pardon Roger Stone!” and “Lock him up!”

His attorney Bruce Rogow
said Stone and his team would have no comment. The judge delayed
execution of his sentence while she considers Stone’s motion for a new

Even before Trump said he would hold off a decision on a
pardon, Republican and Democratic legislators were staking out positions
on one.

Democratic House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of
California tweeted after the sentencing that “to pardon Stone when his
crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a staunch Trump
ally, signaled early support for such a move, tweeting that Trump has
“all the legal authority in the world” to pardon Stone if he chooses.

sentencing came amid Trump’s unrelenting defense of his longtime
confidant. The president has repeatedly maintained that the jury was
tainted against him and his allies.

Prosecutor Crabb asked the
judge to impose “a substantial period of incarceration.” Stone’s
attorney Seth Ginsberg repeated the defense team’s plea that Stone get
no prison time. Stone declined to address the court.

clearly displeased with the mixed messages from the Justice Department,
Jackson said she agreed that the initial sentencing recommendation was
too harsh.

The evidence presented at Stone’s trial didn’t
directly address Mueller’s conclusion that there was insufficient
evidence to prove a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and
Russia to tip the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. But it
provided new insight into the scramble inside the Trump campaign when it
was revealed in July 2016 that the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks was in
possession of more than 19,000 emails hacked from the servers of the
Democratic National Committee.U.S. intelligence agencies have said
Russia was the source of the hacked material.

Witnesses testified
that Trump’s campaign viewed Stone as an “access point” to WikiLeaks and
tried to use him to get advance word about hacked emails damaging to
Hillary Clinton.

Prosecutors argued that Stone had lied to
Congress about his conversations about WikiLeaks with New York radio
host and comedian Randy Credico.

During the 2016 campaign, Stone
mentioned in interviews and public appearances that he was in contact
with founder Julian Assange through a trusted intermediary and hinted at
inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans.

Testimony revealed that
Stone, while appearing before the House Intelligence Committee, named
Credico as his intermediary to Assange and pressured Credico not to
contradict him.

After Credico was contacted by Congress, he
reached out to Stone, who told him he should “stonewall it” and “plead
the fifth,” he testified. Credico also testified during Stone’s trial
that Stone repeatedly told him to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,’” a reference
to a character in “The Godfather: Part II” who lies before Congress.

Prosecutors also charged that Stone had threatened Credico’s therapy dog, Bianca, saying he was “going to take that dog away from you.”

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.