Emboldened Trump seeks revenge post impeachment trial
Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, defended Attorney General William Barr’s decision to step in and overrule the four Justice Department prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations for President Trump ally Roger Stone.
Kennedy described it as a process problem whereby rules or protocol were not followed.
“If the reporting is accurate, the frontline prosecutors did not communicate with their supervisors,” Kennedy told CNN.
“When you're dealing with a public figure [Roger Stone in this case] frontline prosecutors can't act unilaterally. They can't act unilaterally in indicting. They can't act unilaterally in proceeding. They can’t act unilaterally in sentencing recommendations. They have to get the okay from their supervisors at Justice. And my understanding is based on reporting, that the frontline prosecutors did not clear their sentence recommendations with the supervisors at Justice, and they were overruled,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy however, did not defend Trump’s tweets congratulating Barr for stepping in, in which the President said, “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.”
Kennedy said, “Now, when the President tweeted out that made the whole thing problematic.”
Earlier today: Trump tweeted another complaint that stated, “Two months in jail for a Swamp Creature, yet 9 years recommended for Roger Stone (who was not even working for the Trump Campaign). Gee, that sounds very fair! Rogue prosecutors maybe? The Swamp!”
Kennedy said he failed to see a link between the President’s misgivings about the recommended 7-9 year sentence and Barr stepping in.
“I haven't seen any evidence that that Justice changed its position or formulated its position, based on the President's tweet, if somebody can show me evidence more than speculation I’ll begin to consider,” Kennedy said.
Attorney General William Barr will testify in March to address numerous concerns regarding his leadership of the Department of Justice and the President's "improper influence over the department," according to a letter from the House Judiciary Committee.
A letter from Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, which was signed by 23 Judiciary Committee Democratic members, claims that Barr "engaged in a pattern of conduct in legal matters relating to the President that raises significant concerns for this Committee."
"Since President Trump took office, we have repeatedly warned you and your predecessors that the misuse of our criminal justice system for political purposes is both dangerous to our democracy and unacceptable to the House Judiciary Committee. Our Republican colleagues have warned the Department of the same.We have been consistent—and bipartisan—in this message for years," Nadler wrote.
Barr is expected to testify on March 31.
Why this matters: Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called for Barr to resign after top leadership at the Department of Justice stepped in to reduce a sentence recommendation of longtime Trump associate Roger Stone.
Trump thanked the Justice Department today for intervening in the case involving Stone.
President Trump said today he thinks the four federal prosecutors who resigned from the Roger Stone case "ought to go back to school and learn because the way they treated people, nobody should be treated like that."
Trump was asked by reporters whether he has any concern about their resignations after Justice Department officials disavowed their recommended sentence against Stone, Trump said, "I'm not concerned about anything."
Michael Caputo, a former adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign and a longtime friend of Roger Stone, confirmed today that he is leading an effort to have Stone pardoned.
The “Pardon Roger Stone” group was organized to raise money for Stone and his family, collect signatures in favor of a Stone pardon and create an avenue for the White House to discuss clemency with Stone’s associates.
“We're raising money, raising awareness and assuring the White House that we stand by for contact when and if they're ready,” Caputo said.
Caputo has not yet been in contact with the White House or the Justice Department about a Stone pardon. But the committee is the latest effort in a public and private lobbying campaign to convince Trump to pardon Stone.
Stone, Trump’s longtime political adviser, was convicted on seven charges last year, including lying to Congress and witness tampering. He is set to be sentenced on Feb. 20 in Washington amid controversy over political intervention in his case.
The money raised would be devoted to legal fees and the Stone family's bills, Caputo said.
Stone has already been raising money for a legal defense fund to pay his attorney fees. But he would likely hire new lawyers if he appeals his sentence. If Stone is sentenced to jail time, there are concerns about how he and his wife would get by financially, Caputo said.
“They're completely destitute; they have no money,” Caputo said of the Stone family.
What happened this week: The four prosecutors overseeing Stone’s case withdrew Tuesday in a mass revolt after top Justice Department officials undermined them by disavowing prosecutors’ recommendation that Stone face seven to nine years in prison.
Caputo said the new group has arranged a committee to meet with White House officials to discuss a potential pardon – if the White House is interested.
“The path is fraught with peril: Peril for Roger, peril for the President and peril for us,” Caputo said. “It's a tightrope walk for all of us.”
A federal judge has denied Roger Stone a new trial after he made a request under seal, according to a notice from the court.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson made her ruling known on Wednesday, her first public response following the withdrawals of all prosecutors on the case. She has not yet acknowledged the prosecutor withdrawals.
The denial was decided last week, before the eruption over the government’s revised sentencing recommendation in the last few days.
Stone argued that his trial should be re-heard because one jurors should not have been allowed to be on the panel, according to the partially redacted order.
President Trump thanked the Justice Department today for intervening in the case involving his onetime campaign associate Roger Stone.
Trump, in a meeting with the Ecuadorean president in the Oval Office, again said he hadn’t spoken to the department about the case.
He declined to say whether he was considering a pardon for Stone, saying he didn’t want to discuss it yet.
And he insisted his tweet about a sentencing recommendation for Stone was not political interference.
Sen. Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote to convict President Trump in his impeachment trial, was muted in his view about the Roger Stone case, saying if there's "any indication" that the Justice Department is not independent of politics — that "would obviously be a real problem."
He said he doesn't think a Republican investigation into the matter would "change a lot."
More on Romney: The Utah Republican voted to convict the President on the abuse of power charge brought by the House in the impeachment trial, making him the only Republican senator to vote to convict on one of the two articles of impeachment. He voted to acquit on the second article, obstruction of Congress.
Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking member of the Senate GOP leadership, said Wednesday it would be best for the President not to meddle into matters at the Department of Justice, such as the sentencing recommendations of Roger Stone.
“My view is that these legal proceedings are best left to the system of justice in this country to be resolved. And I would hope in the end that that will happen,” Thune said in response to questions about the controversy.
The South Dakota Republican also said it was “unfortunate people resigned” and “you want to let the legal process move forward the way it was intended to.”
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said today President Trump "should not have gotten involved” in the Roger Stone case.
What's this about: The President tweeted this week that the recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for Stone, a former associate of Trump, was "unfair." The Department of Justice on Tuesday announced that it was revising its recommendation for Stone to "far less" prison time. Trump denied any involvement in the sentencing revision.