Just because Attorney General William Barr intervened to argue for a lesser sentence for Roger Stone not long after Donald Trump tweeted his desire, prompting the four lawyers working on the case to quit and the supervisor to lose her Treasury nomination, followed by praise from Trump for Barr – that’s no reason to conclude there’s anything amiss, Fox News would have you believe.
Not long after it was reported that Barr will testify to the House Judiciary Committee next month about his and Trump’s extremely suspicious behavior, and not just in the Stone case, former U.S. prosecutor James Trusty visited Fox News to suggest there’s nothing to see here, folks.
But there sure is a lot of smoke. Here’s how Politico summed up the situation:
The arrangement [for Barr’s testimony] comes as Democrats have demanded answers about Barr's apparent intervention in the sentencing of President Donald Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone, who was convicted last year on charges that he lied to congressional investigators and threatened a witness.
Hours after Trump railed against Justice Department prosecutors for recommending a seven- to nine-year sentence for Stone, DOJ rebuked its own team and issued a revised recommendation calling for a lighter sentence. The four prosecutors assigned to Stone’s case abruptly withdrew on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, Trump hailed Barr for "taking charge" of the matter, confirming suggestions that it was the attorney general himself who intervened.
Also, Trump just withdrew the nomination of Jessie Liu, who oversaw the Stone and other Russia investigation-related cases, for a high-ranking post at the Treasury Department.
Trusty emphasized all the pro-Trump talking points he could come up with, despite having no apparent knowledge of what happened in the Stone case, before implicitly conceding that yes, it’s possible something just might stink.
TRUSTY: Look, it’s not all that uncommon for the attorneys that went to trial, the line attorneys, to have a very strong view about sentencing by the time they get towards that sentencing. They’ve been living that case, they feel strongly and in this case, they calculated the guidelines in a very aggressive way. But what usually happens is, the supervisors up the chain say, you know, great job, guys, but calm down, it’s not an eight-year or a nine-year case. It doesn’t have to be that harsh here and they will walk it back before you ever see any of it make the press. And what’s happened here is, you had a sentencing memo that took the aggressive approach of making it an eight or nine-year offense when a lot of others would say it’s about a three or four-year offense. And so that’s what’s happening. We’re seeing all this play between Trump’s tweets and the AG commenting on it and then eventually a revision to the sentencing memo that draws a lot of attention to what could have been a very easy internal decision.
Even Trumper Bill Hemmer acknowledged the situation looked fishy. He asked whether Trump’s tweet had “any effect on what DOJ is doing or not?” Trusty opined it was all an unfortunate coincidence.
TRUSTY: Well, I think it has an effect on the public perception that Trump is essentially ordering that there be some change in stance. But the reality is probably pretty different.
We’ll hear from Barr when he testifies about this. I think he’s gonna say, look, I’m in the business of doing justice, I’m friends with the president. I accept a lot of his principles, but he’s not gonna tell me what to do on an individual case. I’d be surprised if he’s reduced to tears and says oh, I was being a political hack. I think it’s a fair result to knock those guidelines down to where they were. It’s just an ugly process we’re seeing.
But what about those four prosecutors who quit, obviously in protest, Hemmer asked.
Finally Trusty had to acknowledge that those actions indicate there could be something wrong with this picture, though probably not.
TRUSTY: They’re certainly calling attention to this process and suggesting by their actions there’s something really wrong with it but I think we have to wait and see whether clearer minds can say, no, I understand their passion but it’s misplaced.
TRUSTY: Who knows, we may have 10 whistleblowers overnight that say they heard a phone call [from Trump to the DOJ] on this but, look, the reality is – and the politics are gonna play out, right? There’s gonna be a lot of screaming and accusations at Barr’s expense but I think that Barr will get an opportunity to basically say, hopefully, probably, Hey, look, we look at cases individually. I don’t care that it’s Roger Stone. I just know that eight or nine years was a bit much and although my results coincide with the president, he didn’t dictate to me in some political fashion.
Or maybe Trump didn’t have to “dictate.” Barr couldn’t miss that Dear Leader was displeased and, like anyone who hears a boss complain about a matter they are in charge of, took the cue and decided that pleasing Trump, not serving the American people, is Job One.
Watch Fox argue there’s nothing rotten in the state of U.S. justice below, from the February 12, 2020 Bill Hemmer Reports.
Obviously, the right-wing media is preparing the base for supporting the pardon for Stone. He’s scheduled to be sentenced next Thursday, and one of the oldest tricks that politicians like to play is to announce the news that they know will not be well-received to happen on a late Friday afternoon, early evening, hoping that most will be focused on their weekends. The pardon could come today, we’ll see.
We sure didn’t know what a Doctor Strangelove Through the Looking Glass nation America was about to become.