Well, now they’ve really gone and done it.
U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell issued a statement largely interpreted as a rebuke of President Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr’s attempts to interfere with the sentencing of Trump’s longtime friend and political confidante Roger Stone.
“The Judges of this Court base their sentencing decisions on careful consideration of the actual record in the case before them; the applicable sentencing guidelines and statutory factors; the submissions of the parties, the Probation Office and victims; and their own judgment and experience,” Judge Howell said in a decidedly rare and sure to be controversial statement.
“Public criticism or pressure is not a factor,” she also said.
That comment may be her statement’s most plausible reference to the transparent efforts by Barr and Trump to have Stone’s sentence for lying to Congress and obstruction of justice substantially pared down.
Beltway media went predictably agog:
BREAKING Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington also issued a rare statement responding to President Trump’s attacks on Stone’s sentencing judge, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, and defending the integrity of the courts. https://t.co/LhicnjBjNx pic.twitter.com/MSiNthX3lS
— Spencer Hsu (@hsu_spencer) February 13, 2020
The judge’s restrained (though barely veiled) criticism is believed to specifically regard the 45th president’s heavily-chided tweet calling into question the integrity of fellow D.C. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Jackson is the judge who is overseeing Stone’s sentencing amidst the current Department of Justice (DOJ) sturm und drang.
“Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure?” Trump quote-tweeted on Tuesday. Trump simulaneously shared a description of Jackson’s recent high-profile history with various Trump-affiliated individuals. “How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!”
The implication, of course, was that Judge Jackson is somehow biased against the Trump administration and was previously enamored of then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Jackson was one of two judges who sentenced former Trump 2016 campaign chair Manafort to prison and tidily dismissed a going-nowhere lawsuit against Clinton over the ginned up Benghazi scandal.
On Wednesday, Jackson summarily denied Stone’s request for a new trial.
A slightly redacted sealed order noted that Stone’s request was related to one of the jurors in his trial being an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and, quite notably, nothing at all to do with recent revelations that another of his jurors was a former and failed Democratic Party congressional candidate.
For what it’s worth, Trump’s DOJ and Judiciary-related tweets appear to be rankling even some of his most stalwart allies.
Barr himself performed public prostration over the president’s mercurial anger at all things legal — to widespread eye-rolling.
Sen. Mitch McConnell later joined in, telling Fox News: “I think the president should listen to his [Barr’s] advice. If the attorney general says it’s getting in the way of doing his job, the president should listen to the attorney general.”
[Image via Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images.]