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Federal judge pushes back against Trump criticism of handling of Roger Stone case

A U.S. District Court Judge in Washington, D.C., issued a statement Thursday obtained by The Hill rejecting the notion that outside pressure will influence the court’s ruling on Roger Stone’s case.  

Judge Beryl A. Howell responded to President Trump’s attacks on Stone’s sentencing judge, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, assuring “public criticism or pressure is not a factor” in the court’s decision. Howell and Berman Jackson are both Obama appointees. 

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The statement comes as all four prosecutors on the Stone case resigned on Tuesday after the Department of Justice asked for a lighter sentence than what the prosecutors recommended. Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday night to take a swipe at the prosecutors and Judge Berman Jackson, accusing them of being biased. 

“Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn’t ever even have started? 13 Angry Democrats?” Trump tweeted, referring to former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Howell further underscored that judges do not take sentencing lightly and said that his colleagues take all aspects of the case into consideration when they make a decision. 

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“The Judges of this court base their sentencing decision on careful consideration of the actual record in the case before them; the applicable sentencing guidelines and statutory factors; the submission of the parties, the Probation Office of the victims; and their own judgement and experience,” Howell’s statement read.

Trump tweeted earlier on Tuesday that the prosecutors’ recommended sentencing for Stone (between 87 to 108 months) was “unfair.” Later that day, the Department of Justice asked the federal court for a sentencing “far less” than was recommended.

The move by the Justice Department sparked questions about potential White House interference in judicial matters. 

In an ABC News interview aired Thursday, Attorney General William Barr said Trump had never asked him to do anything in a criminal case but advised the president to stop tweeting about the Justice Department, saying it makes it “impossible for me to do my job.”

Stone, a former Trump campaign advisor, was convicted in November of seven counts of obstructing and lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016. Prosecutors recommended seven to nine years in prison as punishment. 

Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20 by Jackson.

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