Judge rejects new trial for Roger Stone as Trump hints at pardon

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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

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that his longtime friend and political advisor Roger Stone was treated “very badly” by prosecutors, who the president claimed “ought to go back to school and learn.”

But Trump, speaking at the White House, would not say whether he was considering a pardon for Stone, the Republican operative convicted last fall of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

Trump’s comments came after 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.

“I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this [was a] horrible thing,” Trump told reporters.

But he added, “I didn’t speak to them” to seek a reduction of the proposed sentence for Stone when he is sentenced Feb. 20 in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The four prosecutors who signed the original sentencing recommendation, which proposed a prison term of between seven to nine years for Stone, quit the case after learning that the Justice Department would urge a lighter prison term.

“I’m not concerned about anything,” Trump said when asked if he was worried about the prosecutors resigning from the case. “They should go back to school.

“Nine years in jail, it’s a disgrace,” Trump said of the first proposed sentence.

“It was a whole hoax and a disgrace to our country,” Trump said of the case against Stone.

“He was treated very badly.”

Asked if he was considering a pardon for Stone, Trump said, “I don’t want to say yet.”

Meanwhile Wednesday, a court document revealed that U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson had denied a sealed request this month by Stone to grant him a new trial on the grounds that she failed to grant his motion at trial to strike a juror for cause.

Stone had argued that “the juror should have been removed for bias because [REDACTED] is employed in a division of the Internal Revenue Service ‘that works hand-in-hand’ with the Department of Justice prosecuting criminal tax matter,” and because [REDACTED] “violated the Court’s order to avoid media coverage of the case,’ ” Jackson wrote.

The judge noted, “There was nothing in the juror’s questionnaire or [REDACTED] in-court testimony to support defendant’s assertion that [REDACTED] works on criminal matters or interacts with the Department of Justice at all, much less that [REDACTED] works “hand-in-hand” with Justice Department lawyers prosecuting criminal tax cases.”

Jackson took a shot at Stone’s attorney for not researching the juror in question.

“The defense could have easily conducted the same internet research included in the instant motion and could have raised concerns at that time. But the defendant was not prejudiced by his failure to do so,” Jackson wrote.

The juror works on “civil tax administration, mainly for large and international businesses, and they do not even refer matters to the Department,” the judge noted.

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