According to a new report from MSNBC, Attorney General Bill Barr privately advocated against the idea of commuting the prison sentence of longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. President Trump did so this week, which means that Stone will not have to report to prison on Tuesday as had previously been scheduled. He’d been set to serve an over three-year prison sentence over his obstruction of justice scheme meant to conceal some of his attempts to coordinate the Trump campaign and foreign election meddlers like WikiLeaks. Barr has often stumped for the president in the past, so if even he broke with the idea of commuting Stone’s prison sentence, it’s even more clearly a brazenly corrupt political act.
An anonymous administration official claimed to NBC that the “Justice Department had nothing to do with President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone,” as reported in a weekend MSNBC segment.
NBC reporter Josh Lederman explained:
‘That official also [said] that Attorney General Bill Barr actually spoke with President Trump about Roger Stone and encouraged him not to do what the president ultimately went ahead and did anyway, which was cut that sentence short and offer that clemency to Roger Stone. So what we may start to see happening here… is the Justice Department trying to distance itself from this decision, which is already shaping up as the latest blow to morale at the Justice Department, an agency already demoralized by other interventions by the administration.’
Check out the coverage below:
It’s worth noting — Barr had himself previously intervened to lower the federal government’s sentencing recommendation for Stone. In the process, he overruled the federal prosecutors who’d been on the case, who subsequently left the case in apparent protest. One of those prosecutors — Aaron Zelinsky, who also worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — eventually testified to Congress that it was his understanding that Stone had gotten the special treatment because of his relationship to the president.
In the White House’s original statement revealing that Stone’s sentence had been commuted, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany went to great lengths to try and depict Stone as some kind of victim of political retribution against Trump and his allies. There’s no evidence for this conspiracy theory, though — there’s no deep state sitting around plotting how to make Trump look bad.
McEnany belligerently and self-confidently claimed:
‘As it became clear that these witch hunts would never bear fruit, the Special Counsel’s Office resorted to process-based charges leveled at high-profile people in an attempt to manufacture the false impression of criminality lurking below the surface. These charges were the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice.’
That’s a flatly incorrect assessment of the situation. As CNN explains, there’s “no proof whatsoever that Mueller’s team brought charges because they were biased against Trump or had “malice” against his aides.” The problem, of course, is that Trump and his allies have yet to indicate that they’re interested in letting reality get in the way of them trying to score political points.