When Attorney General Bill Barr decided to intervene in the Roger Stone case and reduce the DOJ’s sentencing recommendation to pretty much exactly what he was already expecting the judge to give Stone, it set off a wave of panic. The hyped up reporting led numerous observers to mistakenly believe that Barr could actually change Stone’s sentence, when of course sentencing is 100% at the discretion of the judge.
Barr’s meddling, along with Donald Trump’s tweets attacking the judge and one of the jurors, prompted Roger Stone to file a motion seeking to delay sentencing in favor of a new trial. There was no chance the judge was going to go along with this, but Stone is a desperate man who’s about to spend most or all of the rest of his life in solitary confinement, so he’s reduced to trying long shots.
Sure enough, Judge Amy Berman Jackson announced today that she’s going ahead with Stone’s sentencing this week, as scheduled. So much for Bill Barr somehow magically forcing the judge to grant Stone a new trial. Of course when the judge announces Stone’s prison sentence this week and it ends up being exactly what she was always planning to give him, which was always going to be lower than the initial DOJ recommendation, some pundits will insist that Barr somehow managed to get Stone’s sentence reduced.
We keep seeing more evidence that either Bill Barr either has relatively little muscle when it comes to these kinds of things, or there’s a limit to the kinds of risks he’s willing to take. Yes, he broke the law in the name of creating the false appearance of reducing Roger Stone’s sentence. He also broke the law by creating the false appearance that he was going to put Andrew McCabe, an innocent man, in prison – but last week he had to admit that was never going to happen. The bottom line: Barr is a dangerous criminal, but we keep seeing that he’s not all that effective at his criminal antics. We need to stop cowering to him as if he were somehow invincible.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report