On days like this, when the Trump regime does something highly corrupt but highly ineffective, the mainstream media has an unfortunate tendency to misreport things in ways that just happen to be fantastic for ratings. You’d have to ask NBC News what it was thinking when it incorrectly claimed this evening that Attorney General Bill Barr is “taking control” of the “Roger Stone sentencing,” but that’s simply not a real thing.
What has actually happened is that Bill Barr has taken control of the Roger Stone sentencing recommendation. This means that Barr will recommend that the judge give Stone significantly less prison time than the seven to nine years that federal prosecutors originally recommended. But this doesn’t mean anything, because again, it’s just a recommendation.
If we were dealing with a wacky and unpredictable federal judge like T.S. Ellis, we might have reason for concern about the sentencing. In fact, if Ellis were handling the Roger Stone case, we’d have had reason for concern long before Trump and Barr got involved. But we’re dealing with Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is a picture of reason and consistency. We don’t know what sentence she’ll give Roger Stone, but we know for 100% certain that she’ll give Stone the exact same sentence that she was already planning to give him, and it’ll have nothing to do with anything that Bill Barr is recommending.
Judges are not under the purview of the Attorney General, the President, or anyone in the Executive Branch. There is nothing – literally nothing – that Bill Barr or Donald Trump can do to change the number of years in prison that the judge will give Roger Stone. Trump could end up pardoning Stone, but Trump’s antics today make clear that he’s trying to find a way to not have to pardon Stone, because a pardon would backfire on Trump in various ways.
Pardons aren’t magic wands, no matter how much time the TV pundits have spent over the past few years trying to convince us otherwise. The Attorney General can’t magically decide what kind of prison sentence a judge gives a convict. These simply aren’t real things, any more than Trump or Barr could magically make it rain tomorrow. But at a time when everyone is fearful and vulnerable, these kinds of literally impossible doomsday scenarios sure do scare people into staying tuned in.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report