The Justice Department supports longtime Trump friend Roger Stone going to prison on Tuesday, according to a new court filing.
Stone has asked a federal appeals court for emergency help to delay his prison term until September, citing coronavirus.
But the Justice Department, which has been criticized for going easy on Stone, said the report date of July 14 that was set by his trial judge is “a reasonable exercise of that court’s discretion based on the totality of the factual and legal circumstances.”
The Justice Department argument on Thursday sets up how Stone may need to turn to President Donald Trump as his last hope to avoid prison.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows left the door open to a presidential pardon or commutation for Stone, telling White House reporters Thursday evening that he didn’t know “when or if” the President would make that call, but the decision was becoming “more important” as Stone prepares to serve his sentence.
The Justice Department told the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday that Stone, 67, hasn’t given any legal reasons why he should be treated differently from other convicted felons or kept out of prison at this time. Stone had claimed he had an exceptional situation because his age put him at risk of death from coronavirus in prison.
Stone has all but conceded he’s unlikely to get another reprieve from a court before July 14, when he’s set to turn himself in to a federal prison camp in Georgia. In recent weeks, he blanketed online forums with pleas for a presidential pardon.
Despite Attorney General William Barr calling Stone’s case a “righteous” prosecution, Trump has repeatedly said Stone is a victim of the Mueller investigation, which the President, without basis, has called corrupt and illegal. “He can sleep well at night!” Trump wrote on Twitter on June 4 after a Stone supporter tweeted about a pardon.
“Obviously, a pardon and commutations is something that the attorney general can weigh in on, but that’s a power that is reserved solely for the President of the United States,” Meadows told reporters Thursday.
Stone’s prison term has already been delayed before.
A federal judge delayed Stone’s June 30 prison report date by two weeks, ordering him to spend that time at home essentially in quarantine. The prison in Jesup, Georgia, has reported 10 inmates and three staff testing positive with coronavirus as of Thursday afternoon, with one staff member recovered. It’s unclear how many of those cases are in the medium-security prison versus the camp where Stone is to report.
Stone was indicted in January 2019 on charges including attempting to cover up his efforts to reach WikiLeaks in 2016 to help the Trump campaign access documents stolen by the Russians. Prosecutors argued at the trial that Stone had lied to Congress in 2017 to protect the President.
A jury found him guilty last November, and Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced him to more than three years in prison in February.
Recently, Stone has been bearish that the appeals court would allow for another delay for his sentence. On Instagram, he’s written that his latest request for a delay is a “hail mary appeal” that the appeals court “may or may not grant.” (Facebook shut down his Instagram account on Wednesday.)
“I want the President to know that I have exhausted all my legal remedies and that only an act of clemency will provide justice in my case and save my life!” Stone wrote earlier this week.
This story has been updated with additional background.
Nikki Carvajal contributed to this story.