Roger Stone sentenced to 40 months in prison

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1:32 p.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Here's what Trump is tweeting as Stone's sentencing plays out

As Roger Stone’s sentencing gets underway, President Trump is tweeting on other foes, including former FBI director James Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, as well as John Kerry and Sen. Chris Murphy, whom, he claims, violated the Logan Act, an assertion he has made before. 

Previously, Trump claimed that, in an exchange with Sen. Chuck Grassley at a committee meeting, Comey admitted to being a leaker.

Facts First: Trump’s claim was the opposite of the truth. Comey denied being a leaker in that meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2017.

In another tweet, Trump said Kerry and Murphy violated the Logan Act, which makes it a felony for individuals who are not authorized by the US government to negotiate with foreign governments which have disputes with the US. CNN has fact checked a similar claim by Trump before — you can read it here.

1:32 p.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Judge says sentencing recommendation should be higher because Stone threatened witness

Stone arrives at court on February 20.
Stone arrives at court on February 20. Samuel Corum/EPA/Shutterstock

US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with the Justice Department, agreeing that the sentencing recommendation for Stone should be much higher because of his threats to witness Randy Credico.

Prosecutor John Crabb Jr. said the fact is “the defendant threatened both his personal safety and his pet.” 

“We believe this enhancement applies and we ask the court to impose it," Crabb said.

Crabb, during his first argument to the court today, appeared to be sticking with the original sentencing recommendation, which argued Stone threatened violence and should be punished more harshly.

The first sentencing memo asked for seven to nine years in prison, while the revised version did not name a specific length of time, but said a sentence should be far shorter than the first recommendation.

Jackson read into the record a few of Stone's texts to Credico, including the f-word. 

10:37 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Defense attorney argues Stone shouldn't receive a longer sentence for threatening a witness

Roger Stone's defense attorney, Seth Ginsberg, argued that the judge shouldn't take into consideration a higher sentencing guideline because of Stone's threats to witness Randy Credico. 

What's this about: In April 2018, Stone wrote an email to Credico, saying “you are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds.” Stone also said he would “take that dog away from you.” 

"It's not that they weren't a serious enough threat to trigger the guidelines, the words themselves did not constitute a threat at all," Ginsberg said.

Stone is known for using "rough, hyperbolic language." Credico knew "it was just Stone being Stone."

There was no violence in this case, Ginsberg said, pointing to Credico's letter to the judge before Stone's sentencing. In that letter, Credico said he never believed Stone would actually take or hurt his dog, and he asked the judge for leniency.

Ginsberg says he can't find case law that would support the sentencing recommendation increase if a victim doesn't believe they're being threatened. "That's a very blunt instrument," he said. 

"I have the authority to deal with that," Judge Jackson responded.

More context: Prosecutors had initially asked Stone to be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, resting that recommendation on the severity of his crimes and behavior. President Trump called that ask "very unfair," however, in a late-night tweet. Attorney General William Barr overrode the recommendation the next day, saying seven years in prison would be too harsh a sentence.

None of the prosecutors who won the case at trial signed the revised sentencing memo, and two new DC US Attorney's Office supervisors have stepped up to handle Stone's sentencing, exposing how politically charged the case has become inside the Justice Department.

10:17 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Judge says first sentencing memo is still in the record

Judge Amy Berman Jackson just acknowledged that Justice Department initially recommended a sentence of seven to nine years — and then changed its mind.

This reversal — which came after Trump tweeted criticism of the initial proposed sentence — prompted four prosecutors to withdraw from the case. A new sentencing memo from the DC US Attorney's Office still asked for a prison sentence, though for "far less" time than the office had asked for a day earlier.

The prosecutors declined to say how much time in prison Stone should serve.

Jackson noted that the first recommendation is still in the record.

“I note the initial memorandum has not been withdrawn,” Jackson said.

10:05 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

The hearing has started

Roger Stone's sentencing hearing is underway in a DC court. He was convicted last year on seven charges of obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering.

1:32 p.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Roger Stone entered the courthouse with an entourage

More than 100 people are in the courthouse ahead of the Roger Stone sentencing this morning, with a long line snaking down the hall outside the courtroom.

Stone came in with an entourage, including at least five of his lawyers, some of his friends and his supporters, and members of the right-wing group the Proud Boys.

Before heading into the courtroom, where his lead attorney Bruce Rogow sat reading the newspaper, Stone chatted with flocks of people, including members of the courthouse staff. He seemed to be in a good mood.

The two prosecutors who joined the case in the last week representing the Justice Department, John Crabb Jr. and JP Cooney are now in the courtroom. Notably, several former members of the Robert Mueller team who came to court during Stone’s trial don’t appear to be in attendance.

The four prosecutors who withdrew last week haven’t been spotted either.

Watch here:

9:51 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

What we know about Roger Stone

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Roger Stone is a bullish and flamboyant right-wing gadfly, always a phone call away from President Trump or anyone else who wants to talk, and a résumé that dates back to the Nixon years.

Stone's resume was compelling enough to inspire a Netflix documentary, "Get Me Roger Stone," chronicling his life in national politics — one that began as a trickster for Richard Nixon, endured a scandalous setback in the mid 1990s and reemerged in the last two decades as, among other things, a voice directing Donald Trump toward the presidential trough.

"I was like a jockey looking for a horse," Stone says in the film. "You can't win the race if you don't have a horse. (Trump's) a prime piece of political horse flesh in my view."

But Stone's ride ended early. He was fired by Trump's campaign in August 2015, relegated — or so it seemed — to the that vast swirling orbit of off-the-books Trump whisperers. But his influence remained apparent through the primaries and into the general election contest with Hillary Clinton. When Trump decided to fire FBI Director James Comey in early May, he did it with a push from Stone.

Whether Stone has a personal connection to, or possessed any forward knowledge of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 campaign remains to be seen. In March 2017, he downplayed contacts with "Guccifer 2.0," an online personality who has claimed responsibility for the DNC hack, denying any potential collusion.

Days later, Stone was again in his natural habitat — the headlines — after he volunteered to speak with the House Intelligence Committee investigating Trump and Russia about his role as a campaign associate.

"I acknowledge I am a hardball player. I have sharp elbows. I always play politics the way it is supposed to be played," Stone told CNN in typically theatrical tones. "But one thing isn't in my bag of tricks — treason."

9:30 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Here's the timeline of how we got from Stone's arrest to calls on William Barr to resign

Today's sentencing of Trump ally Roger Stone comes after a tremulous week at the Justice Department over the case. Federal prosecutors resigned from the case after Justice Department officials overrode their initial recommended sentence.

Here's a day-by-day look at how her got here:

  • January 2019: Stone is indicted by a grand jury on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who alleges that the longtime Trump associate sought stolen emails from WikiLeaks that could damage Trump's opponents during the 2016 election. Stone is arrested by the FBI Friday morning at his home in Florida
  • November: Stone is found guilty of all seven counts brought by the Justice Department.
  • Feb. 10: Prosecutors ask a federal judge to sentence Stone to seven to nine years in prison.
  • Feb. 11: President Trump tweets criticism of the recommended sentence, writing, "This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"
  • Hours after the Trump tweet: Attorney General William Barr and other top Justice Department officials reduce prosecutors' recommended sentence.
  • After that: All four federal prosecutors who took the case against Stone to trial withdraw from the case. Two new DC US Attorney's Office supervisors step up to handle Stone's sentencing, and a new sentencing memo is released asking for "far less" time than the office previously asked for.
  • Sunday: More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials call on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign in the wake of the Stone case drama.
9:26 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

What Roger Stone's trial revealed about Trump and Mueller

Mark Makela/Getty Images
Mark Makela/Getty Images

Almost six months after special counsel Robert Mueller formally ended his investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia in 2016, a wealth of new information about the President's involvement came out in the criminal trial of his former adviser Roger Stone.

The case grew out of the Mueller investigation, but the jury heard details that — because of the Stone case — were hidden from the public when the Mueller report was released earlier this year. Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of Congress, lying to Congress and witness tampering.

What we learned: The most significant revelation in the trial was the extent to which Stone was in touch with Trump directly and other campaign officials, and how they eagerly anticipated WikiLeaks' releases of hacked Democratic emails in 2016.

Witnesses — including former top Trump strategist Steve Bannon and former deputy campaign chair Rick Gates — emphasized the campaign's enthusiasm about hacks and leaks dating back to April 2016. News of the hacks first broke in June 2016, and WikiLeaks started dumping the stolen documents in July 2016, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

Prosecutors showed line charts that visualized Stone's communications with top Trump officials. The lines spiked around key moments of the Democratic hack and WikiLeaks releases of the stolen data. In all, the prosecutors discussed several phone calls placed between Trump and Stone — often around dates when the hacks were in the news.

That included a July 2016 conversation between Trump and Stone, apparently about what WikiLeaks had lined up for the autumn, ahead of the general election.