Trump lashes out with a dangerous lie at federal judge overseeing Roger Stone's case
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2019 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Gage Skidmore)

President Donald Trump lashed out Tuesday night at Amy Berman Jackson, a federal judge who has overseen several key cases that arose from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. She is currently presiding over the case against longtime Trump friend Roger Stone, who is due to be sentenced soon after being found guilty of lying to Congress and attempting to impede its Russia investigation.


In response to a tweet naming Jackson, Trump tweeted: “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!”

Judge Jackson did send Manafort to prison ahead of his trial in the summer of 2018, finding that he had violated the terms of his release. But judges do not determine the conditions prisoners are kept in; those decisions are made by the prisons and jails that house inmates.

And despite his lawyer’s claims that Manafort was in solitary confinement, prosecutors described his conditions as far more accommodative than is usually imagined when the term is invoked. As Vox reported, a filing from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team said his conditions included:

  • Manafort “is not confined to a cell”
  • Between 8:30 am and 10 pm, Manafort “has access to a separate workroom at the jail to meet with his attorneys and legal team”
  • He has “his own bathroom and shower facility”
  • He has “his own personal telephone,” which he can use more than 12 hours a day
  • Those calls are limited to 15 minutes each, but when they cut off, he can just call the person back immediately
  • He’s made nearly 300 phone calls in the last three weeks
  • He has a personal laptop he can use in his unit to review materials and prepare for his trial
  • He was provided an extension cord to let him use his laptop in either his unit or his workroom
  • He’s not allowed to send emails, but he “has developed a workaround” for even that — his legal team brings in a laptop, he drafts the emails on that laptop, and they send them out after they leave.
  • He’s being treated like a “VIP,” according to his own account on a monitored phone call.

Jackson noted at one hearing that Manafort was later moved to another jail in Alexandria, Virginia, because of his team’s complaints. CNN explained:

She said Manafort “realized the tactic had backfired immediately.” He was in a self-contained (“VIP”) suite in Northern Neck, Jackson added.

“I’m not going to split hairs over whether the word solitary was accurate because he had a room of his own,” Jackson said.

What Manafort’s detention quarters looks like now: Now he’s in protective confinement, not technically solitary. He has a window, radio, newspapers and view of TV. He’s released for a few hours a day to walk around and be with other people

“Mr. Manafort, I don’t want to belittle or minimize the discomforts of prison for you. It’s hard on everyone, young and old, rich or poor,” she said.

In short, Trump’s attack on Jackson was a lie.

It was also extremely dangerous. Jackson’s high-profile cases have already left her vulnerable to public threats; Stone himself posted a disturbing image of the judge ahead of his trial. And Trump’s efforts to attack a judge online are at least an order of magnitude worse. His fans have been known to target the subjects of his public rebukes before, most notably in the case of Cesar Sayoc, who sent pipe bombs to Trump’s perceived enemies. The fact that he is tossing out such inflammatory attacks ahead of his friend’s sentencing in another extreme assault on the rule of law.