“One of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s top lieutenants in the investigation into Russian election interference doubled down on his call for Attorney General William Barr to substantiate his public support for Roger Stone’s “righteous” prosecution by putting Stone before a grand jury.” Law & Crime reports, Former Mueller Prosecutor Doubles Down: This Doesn’t Have to Be the End of the Roger Stone Story:
In a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday, former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann explained how President Donald Trump’s commutation of Stone’s prison sentence, supervised release and fines may have left Barr and the Department of Justice better positioned to get to the truth of whatever Stone was lying about.
“This does not have to be the end of the story,” Weissman wrote. “Prosecutors are well armed to get to the bottom of what Mr. Stone knows but has refused to disclose. If there was nothing nefarious about his coordination efforts, why did he lie about them to Congress? This question remains unanswered, as the Mueller report notes.”
Stone was convicted in Nov. 2019 on charges obstruction, witness tampering, and lying to Congress regarding his contact and coordination with WikiLeaks in the lead up to the 2016 election. Prosecutors and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson both said that Stone lied in an effort to cover up for President Trump.
While the president certainly has the constitutional authority to commute or pardon Stone, even Barr has previously conceded that the issuance of a pardon in exchange for agreeing not to incriminate the president “would be a crime.”
Now Barr must answer under oath what he is doing in response to such blatant apparent criminal conduct. https://t.co/RtjlsNOjYv
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) July 13, 2020
According to Weissmann, prosecutors can now serve Stone with a grand jury subpoena requiring him to answer questions regarding why he lied to Congress. This would leave Stone with three potential options: lie and face another prosecution, refuse to comply and be held in civil or criminal contempt, or tell the truth.
While at first glance it may seem far-fetched that the newly-freed Stone would suddenly turn on the man responsible for his liberation, but similar circumstances have played out in some of the most high-profile prosecutions in U.S. history.
“In the Enron investigation, after the company’s treasurer, Ben Glisan Jr., pleaded guilty but refused to cooperate, we put him before the grand jury,” Weissman wrote.“Instead of facing additional jail time, he came clean and became one of the government’s most compelling witnesses. In a Genovese mob case, a foot soldier who had pleaded guilty and then was served with a grand jury subpoena to learn who his conspirators were chose to cooperate, explaining to us, ‘I was willing to do my time, but I was unwilling to do the time for my conspirators.’”
Weissmann concluded by returning to the notion that the DOJ has all the necessary tools to get to the truth of the matter:
If Mr. Barr does not support their use, we should all ask ourselves why not.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the current top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, wants the Justice Department to review what led to the president’s decision. Leahy to Barr: Is Roger Stone sentence commutation ‘a crime’?
“Given recently surfaced information indicating that President Trump may have commuted Mr. Stone’s sentence in exchange for his refusal to incriminate the President, pursuant to your own standard, an inquiry by the Justice Department into Mr. Stone’s commutation is clearly warranted,” Leahy wrote in a letter provided first to CQ Roll Call.
While the White House announced the commutation of Stone’s sentence Friday evening, documentation from the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the Justice Department did not appear publicly on Friday.
The federal judge overseeing the Stone case, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, on Monday requested the details of the commutation.
It was not immediately clear, even to the court, whether the sentence reduction also applied to two years of supervised release that had already been ordered followed the scheduled 40 month period of incarceration for obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress.
We now know what the Trump order said: “I commute the entirety of the prison sentence imposed upon the said Roger Jason Stone Jr. to expire immediately; I also commute the entirety of the two-year term of supervised release with all its conditions; and finally, I remit any unpaid reminder of the $20,000 imposed.”
Leahy’s Monday letter to Barr referenced the determination by the judge that Stone’s criminal convictions were the result of an attempt to cover up for the president.
“This past Friday, Roger Stone seemed to acknowledge as much during an interview, stating that the President ‘knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.’ Hours later that same day, the White House announced that President Trump is commuting Roger Stone’s 40 month prison sentence,” Leahy wrote, referring to an interview with Howard Fineman recounted in The Washington Post.
Leahy said that based on Barr’s comments during the confirmation hearing, the Justice Department should look into potential criminal activity related to the granting of the commutation.
Barr had reportedly told Trump that he was not in favor of commuting the sentence for Stone.
“As there appears to be a reasonable, factual indication that criminal activity has occurred, your duty to pursue equal justice under the law requires you to conduct a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Stone’s commutation and uncover any evidence suggesting that President Trump issued this commutation in return for Mr. Stone’s refusal to cooperate with investigators in order to protect the President,” Leahy wrote.
As you might expect, one of Donald Trump’s former hack lawyers is already making a counter-attack on Andrew Weissmann for his Times op-ed. Ex-Trump Attorney Suggests Prosecutor Investigate Top Mueller Deputy Andrew Weissmann:
“Weissman and his dream team failed in their first attempt to manufacture a crime and want to further abuse the process when their sorry effort has been exposed,” Dowd said in a comment to The Washington Times. “The Stone indictment did not allege a crime by President Trump. So why further abuse the process except more sour grapes.”
“Mr. Durham ought to take a hard look at Mr. Weissmann’s conduct on the dream team,” he added.
This is a reference to the bogus investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham, appointed by William Barr in 2019 to investigate the roots of the inquiry into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and to determine whether Mueller’s team conducted itself appropriately as it pursued charges against Trump’s staffers, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and Stone.
This is not an investigation so much as an attempt by William “Coverup” Barr to rewrite the history of the Russia investigation in a manner that comports with Donald Trump’s “deep state” conspiracy theories. It is immediately suspect and is unworthy of credibility.
This hack lawyer Dowd is conveniently ignoring Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s lengthy speech extolling truth and the rule of law at the sentencing of Roger Stone. ‘The American people cared. And I care.’ Top lines from Judge Amy Berman Jackson during the Roger Stone sentencing (excerpt):
On Stone covering up for Trump
“I have received letters urging me not to silence an important voice in the public arena, but that will not be an element of this sentence in any way. I expect he will keep talking. And as you’ve just heard when I went through the elements of the offense, he was not convicted and is not being sentenced for exercising his First Amendment rights, his support of the President’s campaign or his policies.
“He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the President. He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.”
From the very beginning Trump dangled pardons if witnesses would keep their mouths shut or lie on his behalf. Roger Stone took him up on his offer. This was a quid pro quo (bribery) to suborn perjury, in exchange for a commutation of sentence or a pardon. It is also obstruction of justice and abuse of power. As William Barr indicated at his confirmation hearing, this is a crime (actually several crimes), all of them impeachable.
Weissmann announced this week that he will be publishing a book about his time on the Mueller investigation, another reason for Trump world to attack him. [UPDATE: Weissman told the Associated Press that the book, titled “Where Law Ends,” will examine the “hard truth” about the investigation: “mistakes” were made” and “We could have done more.” Where Law Ends documents the choices we made, good and bad, for all to see and judge and learn from. “This is the story of our investigation into how our democracy was attacked by Russia and how those who condoned and ignored that assault undermined our ability to uncover the truth.” Weissman plans to release the memoir September 29.]
Roger Stone also says that he will be publishing a book about his experience. Well, you can tell it to the grand jury under oath first, you convicted felon.
UPDATE: Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer explain in detail at The Atlantic how Roger Stone Can Be Tried, Again by a future Justice Department. Give it a read.
Like many other times when Trump has shortchanged those he cuts deals with, Trump hasn’t actually protected Stone from further prosecution. If Stone wants to earn the finality he so obviously craves, he should try the same approach used by other convicted criminals: Come clean, and tell prosecutors what they want to know about the crimes in which he was involved.