The Slatest

Roger Stone Sentenced to More Than Three Years for “Covering Up” for Trump

Roger Stone grins widely and grips his hat as he leaves his sentencing.
All the president’s man.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Roger Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison on Thursday for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of an official proceeding related to his efforts to obstruct a congressional inquiry into 2016 election interference by Russia, and, in the words of the judge presiding over the case, “covering up” for Donald Trump. The seemingly typical sentence comes after the case’s new Justice Department attorney, appointed after the previous attorneys withdrew following interference from Attorney General William Barr, seemed to acknowledge that said attorneys’ harsher sentencing guidelines were correct.

Barr faced calls for his impeachment after he intervened in the case last week. He advocated for reducing the initial sentencing recommendation for the friend and ally of Trump, which led to the withdrawal of the entire prosecution team and the resignation of one attorney. On Thursday, one of the replacement prosecutors said that at least one of the original sentencing enhancements—over a violent threat Stone made to a witness, one part of the calculation that led to the original recommendation of seven to nine years—should still apply. Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed on that particular sentencing enhancement but also felt the sentencing guidelines were “inflated” and opted for a 40-month sentence and $20,000 fine.

Trump’s interference in the case—he maligned the judge, jury, and prosecution team and called the original sentencing recommendation unfair—coincided with Barr’s own efforts to lower the sentence and resulted in calls for Barr to resign or be impeached. Barr condemned the president’s tweets about the case and said that Trump’s efforts to influence politically charged DOJ investigations made it harder for him to do his job, even as his DOJ announced last week a series of moves in line with Trump’s personal wishes.

Prosecutors in the case argued successfully that Stone’s motive in lying to Congress and threatening his friend Randy Credico was to protect Trump from political embarrassment. Stone was convicted in November after he sought to hide information regarding efforts to provide a back channel to the Trump campaign with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, who released a treasure trove of emails on Democratic officials that were hacked by Russia. Judge Amy Berman Jackson mentioned this in sentencing.

“He was not prosecuted, as some have claimed, for standing up for the president,” she said, according to Vox’s Andrew Prokop. “He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”

The defense team argued at trial that even if Stone had lied to Congress about his efforts to secure damaging information on Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks and provide it to the Trump campaign, it didn’t matter, repeatedly saying, “So what.”

Jackson was particularly harsh to this line of defense.

“The truth still exists. The truth still matters,” Jackson said, echoing a line from the prosecution’s closing statements. “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t [poses] a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy,” she added.

She also dismantled Trump’s arguments that the case was somehow politically motivated.

“There was nothing unfair, phony, or disgraceful about the investigation or the prosecution,” she said, according to Prokop

Finally, Jackson said she would not favor or punish Stone for his political connections.

“Roger Stone will not be sentenced for who his friends are, or who his enemies are,” she said.

Just prior to sentencing, Trump again tweeted about Stone, accusing his political enemies of committing similar crimes. Trump has declined to say whether a pardon might be in line for Stone but has danced around the issue in press statements. On Tuesday, Trump pardoned a group of white collar criminals he knows socially, perhaps signaling what is to come next for Stone.