Politics

Judge rejects secret request for new trial by Roger Stone as Trump hints at possible pardon

Key Points
  • A judge rejected Roger Stone's previously secret request for a new criminal trial, according to a newly unsealed court filing.
  • President Donald Trump said that his friend Stone was treated "very badly" by prosecutors, who the president claimed "ought to go back to school and learn."
  • But Trump would not say whether he was considering a pardon for Stone, the longtime Republican operative.
  • Stone was convicted last fall of lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election and witness tampering.
Former advisor to US President Donald Trump, Roger Stone, waves as he arrives for a court hearing on March 14, 2019, in Washington DC.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

A judge rejected Roger Stone's previously secret request for a new criminal trial, according to a court filing unsealed Wednesday, as President Donald Trump said that his longtime friend and political advisor was treated "very badly" by prosecutors.

Those prosecutors "ought to go back to school and learn," Trump fumed to reporters at the White House.

But Trump was coy when asked if he was considering a pardon for Stone, who is due to be sentenced Feb. 20 in federal court in Washington, D.C. for lying to Congress and other crimes.

"I don't want to say yet," Trump replied. "But people were hurt, viciously and badly by these corrupt people."

On Tuesday night, Trump replied to a tweet from a supporter who wrote, "Raise your hand if you believe it's time for a FULL PARDON for Roger Stone and Michael Flynn."

"Prosecutorial Misconduct?" Trump responded.

A Republican operative who is a self-proclaimed dirty trickster, Stone was convicted last fall of lying to Congress about his contacts with the document disclosure group WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election, and witness tampering for pressuring his associate, comedian Randy Credico, to endorse his lies.

Trump's comments came as congressional Democrats accused him of improperly pressuring the Justice Department to sharply reduce a recommended prison sentence for Stone that had first been proposed Monday night by prosecutors directly involved in his case.

The career prosecutors had proposed a prison term of between seven to nine years for Stone, arguing that Stone "flagrantly" lied to the House Intelligence Committee as it investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, which included stealing emails from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chief, which were later released by WikiLeaks.

Those prosecutors on Tuesday quit the Stone case after learning that the Justice Department would urge a lighter prison term for him than what that had first recommended.

"I want to thank the Justice Department," Trump said. "They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence for doing nothing. You have murderers and drug addicts, they don't get nine years."

But, Trump added, "I didn't speak to" the department to get it to reduce the proposed sentence for Stone.

Timothy Shea, the new U.S. attorney for Washington, filed another sentencing memorandum Tuesday, calling for Stone to receive "far less" time behind bars than the original suggestion.

The Justice Department has said it decided to reduce the recommended sentence before Trump lashed out at the original proposal early Tuesday morning on Twitter.

"I'm not concerned about anything," Trump said when asked if he was worried about the prosecutors resigning from the case.

"It was a whole hoax and a disgrace to our country," Trump said of the case against Stone. "He was treated very badly."

VIDEO0:3600:36
Trump associate Roger Stone found guilty of lying to Congress, witness tampering

As Trump spoke, a newly unsealed court document revealed that U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson last week denied a sealed request by Stone to grant him a new trial on the grounds that she rejected his earlier motion at trial to strike a juror from the case for cause.

Stone had argued that the juror "should have been removed for bias" because the juror "is employed in a division of the Internal Revenue Service 'that works hand-in-hand with the Department of Justice prosecuting criminal tax matters,'" and because they "'violated the Court's order to avoid media coverage of the case,'" Jackson wrote.

The judge noted that there was nothing in the juror's questionnaire or their testimony to support Stone's claim that they work on "on criminal matters or interacts with the Department of Justice at all, much less that" the juror "works 'hand-in-hand' with Justice Department lawyers prosecuting criminal tax cases."

Jackson took a shot at Stone's attorney for not researching the background of the juror, who, the judge wrote, works on "'civil tax administration, mainly for large and international businesses, and they do not even refer matters to the" Justice Department.

Michael Caputo, a former Trump advisor and a friend of Stone's, on Wednesday said that a committee set up to encourage the president to pardon Stone has collected 120,000 signatures on a petition in the past four days.

"Roger Stone was targeted by dirty cops because, despite all their illegal efforts, they failed to get Trump," Caputo said in a statement.

"As a result, the Stone family has been destroyed for a 30-year friendship with the Trump family. By imprisoning Stone, they think they imprison the president."