It is a sign of our times that Attorney General William Barr tried to do something right and some illiberal liberals, including not a few in the media, decided that it was wrong on the basis of mindless presidential squawks, factual ignorance and in some cases political opportunity.
What it adds up to is that the illiberal liberals are doing what they accuse Barr of doing, namely going to war with justice and other basic democratic principles, but at least Judge Amy Berman Jackson saw the light.
What she did was sentence Roger Stone to three years and four months in prison instead of the seven to nine years initially recommended by four prosecutors whose numbers included two Mueller probe attorneys.
There are experts saying they were way out of line, but let’s get there by first observing that Stone is an author, a long-term political player majoring in wily tricks and a friend of President Donald Trump’s — enough right there to get him in trouble
Back during the 2016 campaign, he tried to communicate with Wikileaks, which was passing around emails revealing behind-doors discussions in Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
He had gotten in touch with a radio host who seemed to him to know something who could help but who decided instead to squeal on the inquirer. Stone then told him he deserved to die and that he would kill his dog if he didn’t shut up.
The Stone arrest was show biz at its most spectacular as armed police surrounded his house in military getup and helicopters flew around.
Stone opened the door and TV cameras said watch this, folks. We soon had four prosecutors coming at him, piling charge upon charge on him, and here was the main one: violent tampering.
There was a trial, Stone was found guilty and it was then that the prosecutors recommended putting him in prison for seven to nine years.
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However, these guys do not act independently, but have to report to a Department of Justice supervisor who reviewed the sentencing recommendation they wanted to hand the judge and who first off said this doesn’t work.
Experts explain that there are guidelines, and there are guidelines, one set aimed at looking at the criminal crimes and saying here’s what comes next and others looking at a variety of other considerations aimed at being fair and human.
For instance, we are informed, the radio host, also a leftist comedian, knew Stone well enough not take the threat about his dog or dying seriously, and that erases the word “violent” from tampering.
It’s also the case, experts observe and other commentators observe, that Stone was a first offender with no known connections to organized crime, that he was 67 years old and in bad health, and that the Mueller probe never found any kind of illegal collusion with the Russians.
Assessing such matters, a Justice Department supervisor of the prosecutors said the sentencing should be something between three and four years, and the prosecutors snarled and threatened to resign, which means that either way they would get their way — get the sentence recommendation they want of make the department look like a political coddler.
The supervisor, new at his job, maybe unsure of himself, backed down, and then a week or so later we had Barr himself looking at the issue and Trump saying how awful the sentence recommendation was and the world came tumbling down.
Barr, who echoes the earlier recommendation, asked Trump to please shut up and then, when he didn’t, threatened to resign, but we still had partisan punchers in Congress saying Barr should already resign.
On top of that, there were 1,100 former Justice Department employees asking for his resignation through a nonprofit group founded by progressives and that had cheered the Mueller probe, and then there were the judges who also objected even though the Washington District Court is reported to have said the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation “could be considered excessive and unwarranted.” But let’s get to what counts.
Even though Trump is an outrage who just keeps on giving to his political enemies, it is a fact that federal prosecutors are answerable to the Department of Justice.
The idea that all federal officials out there should be unanswerable to anyone is a description of the administrative state that more and more runs our affairs.
The whole trial may be thrown out because of apparent anti-Stone bias by a juror. The Justice Department has outright skipped prosecuting some highly suspect liberal folks.
And the left hates Barr, maybe the best thing that has happened to the Trump administration, because he found a superb prosecutor now investigating possible criminal activity by officials involved in phony FISA warrants and the Mueller probe.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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