No, Donald Trump didn’t just magically get Roger Stone’s prison sentence reduced

Something wicked is afoot. Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr are playing games with Roger Stone’s prison sentence recommendation, and they’re not even being coy about it. In fact they’re being almost hilariously incompetent at it. And the thing is, even if they were any good at this, it wouldn’t work anyway.

It all started yesterday when federal prosecutors announced that they were recommending a prison sentence of seven to nine years for Roger Stone. Considering his age and apparent infirmity, the fact that prison ages people rather quickly, and the fact that he’d have to serve his sentence in solitary confinement, this would be a de facto life sentence.

The thing is, Stone has plenty of dirt on Trump thanks to their forty years of friendship, and he’s surely expecting a pardon in exchange for his continued silence. But Trump would be taking a major risk by pardoning Stone, setting off court battles that could result in Trump losing the opportunity to try to pardon himself and his family on his way out the door. Also, because Stone has a secondary residence in New York City, he’d get hit with state charges in New York anyway, which can’t be pardoned by the president. So instead, Trump is trying a different strategy.

After Trump posted a tweet asserting that the lengthy prison sentence against Roger Stone can’t be allowed to stand, Barr’s Department of Justice announced that seven to nine years is indeed too long, and that it’ll be seeking a shorter sentence. This is brazenly corrupt. In fact it’s a criminal act. If Trump loses in November, he and Bill will both end up with even longer prison sentences of their own, because of it.

But it also won’t work. Prosecutors can recommend the sentence, but they have no control over what sentence the judge actually decides to hand down. Throughout these proceedings, Judge Amy Berman Jackson has shown herself to be fair and reasonable, and she’s shown that she has little patience for hijinks. She knows that the original recommendation was seven to nine years, and she can still give him whatever sentence she thinks is fair. Trump’s antics won’t reduce Stone’s sentence by a single day. Trump is just hoping that the gesture alone will be enough to convince Stone to keep his mouth shut about Trump’s ugliest scandals and secrets.

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