President Donald Trump said his former adviser Roger Stone has “a very good chance of exoneration,” hours after the GOP operative was sentenced to 40 months behind bars for obstructing a congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, NBC reports.
“I’m following this very closely, and I want to see it play out to its fullest, because Roger has a very good chance of exoneration, in my opinion,” Trump said Thursday in a speech at a Hope for Prisoners event in Las Vegas, where he also blasted the jury forewoman in Stone’s trial.
“It’s my strong opinion that the forewoman for the jury is totally tainted,” Trump said, calling the woman, whom he didn’t mention by name, “an anti-Trump person, totally.”
“I don’t know if this is a fact, but she had a horrible social media account,” he told the crowd and television cameras. “She’s, I guess from what I hear, a very strong woman, a very dominant person, so she can get people to do whatever she wants,” he claimed. “How can you have a jury pool tainted so badly? It’s not fair,” Trump said.
The scenes in the courtroom Thursday only heightened the drama at the Justice Department, and hey raised more questions about what in the world is happening inside Attorney General William Barr’s DOJ, The Washington Post reports.
Barr intervened last week to overrule career prosecutors’ tough seven- to nine-year sentencing recommendation for Stone, a Trump ally — shortly after Trump tweeted in opposition to the recommended sentence. That prompted the four prosecutors on the case to withdraw.
Then came a more watered-down recommendation, which was signed by the prosecutor now leading the charge for the Justice Department, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb.
But at Stone’s sentencing hearing on Thursday, Crabb sounded a very different tone. He repeatedly appeared to push the recommendation in the direction of the initial prosecutors’ harsher one, arguing for enhancements that the more recent memo suggested were unnecessary or unsubstantiated.
But several Justice Department officials expressed relief that the sentence of three years and four months roughly corresponded to what U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson called the “unprecedented” second recommendation directed by Barr.
“It was messier than we wanted, but we ended up in the same place,” said one senior official.