In the federal criminal case the U.S. v. Stone, veteran GOP operative Roger Stone — a long-time ally of President Donald Trump — went from facing a U.S. Department of Justice recommendation of seven to nine years in prison to being sentenced to three years and four months to having his sentence commuted by Trump. The “Trump ally” part, according to former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, is why Attorney General William Barr favored leniency for Stone — and Weissmann, in a scathing article for The Atlantic, argues that Barr showed a blatant disregard for the rule of law in Stone’s case.
Barr, Weissman writes, “ordered” a “new submission” in Stone’s case and “urged a guideline calculation of three to four years, claimed a nonexistent factual basis for lowering the sentence — a bogus assertion of health issues — and withdrew the prior government position.”
That prior DOJ position was a recommendation of seven to nine years in federal prison for Stone, who was convicted of charges ranging from witness tampering to obstruction of justice to lying to Congress. Trump decried that DOJ recommendation on Twitter, and Stone was later sentenced to 40 months — although Trump commuted that sentence before it began.
“As every experienced federal prosecutor would immediately understand, Barr’s position violates Department of Justice lawyers’ training, their obligations to the court, their duty under the U.S. sentencing guidelines, and the equal application of the law to all,” Weissman writes. “I know — I was a federal prosecutor for two decades and a senior member of the special counsel’s office under Robert Mueller.”
Stone, Weissmann argues, was given preferential treatment because he is a long-time Trump ally.
“For every federal defendant,” Weissmann explains, “the government must calculate the guidelines according to a clear and set methodology — applying the rules to the facts — and the court must determine what sentence range the guidelines produce, but can then decide to vary upward or downward from the range.”
Barr’s actions in the U.S. v. Stone, according to Weissmann, were motivated not by legal principles, but by loyalty to Trump.
“If you are personally connected to the president or have information that could hurt the president, or both, you can be treated far more favorably by this attorney general — as he will bend the law and facts to the president’s desired result,” Weissmann argues. “His actions in U.S. v. Stone strike at the heart of the Aristotelian principle central to the rule of law: that we treat likes alike.”