13:22 GMT28 May 2020
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    US Justice Department officials reduced the recommended sentence for US President Donald Trump’s former campaign aide Roger Stone following pressure from Trump, suggesting a newfound polarization and politicization of the American judicial system, Coleen Rowley, a former FBI special agent, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Thursday.

    Last week, Justice Department officials objected to the stiff sentence of seven to nine years in prison proposed by prosecutors for Stone after Trump claimed that the recommendation was “horrible” and “unfair,” prompting four federal prosecutors -  Aaron Zelinsky, Johnathan Kravis, Adam Jed and Michael Marando – to withdraw from the trial. 

    On Thursday, Stone was instead sentenced to 40 months in prison on one count of obstruction, 12 months on counts of making false statements and 18 months on a count of tampering by US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

    “I think the judge more or less played it safe,” Rowley told host John Kiriakou, “she didn’t go up to those nine years that those four earlier prosecutors were asking for, and of course, she didn’t go with Stone’s attorneys and give him no prison time. So, she came right down the middle, and her long talk seems like that old Shakespeare line: ‘Methinks you protest too much.’ She seems to kind of be on the defense for a lot of reasons, and the polarization that has affected the entire country that you saw … the polarization now has reached into the judicial system, as far as I can see.” 

    On Tuesday, an association of federal judges held an emergency meeting on Trump’s intervention in Stone’s Case, as evidenced by the Department of Justice changing the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation.

    Federal Judges Association head Judge Cynthia Rufe told USA Today that “there are plenty of issues that we [the group] are concerned about.”

    “That the Judges Association called for an emergency meeting because of the Stone sentencing is incredible. It’s almost like theater of the absurd. So, you see this polarization that has now reached into the judicial system … [this case] is a window into where the country is right now, and you can bet that these polarized attorneys that are calling for [US Attorney General William] Barr to resign; this isn’t going to end because this is now what they have to now grab on to. They've lost some of the other things that they’ve had, and now they’re grabbing onto this latest thing with Roger Stone as a way to ask Barr to resign,” Rowley explained.

    On February 16, a group of more than 1,100 former DoJ officials signed a joint letter calling on Barr to resign for “interfering” in Stone’s sentencing.

    "Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice," the officials wrote. "In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the president. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies."

    Trump on Tuesday also announced several pardons and commutations. According to Rowley, Trump’s this may foreshadow a pardoning of Stone.

    “Trump's motivation was probably - if he is going to pardon Stone - he just wanted to say, ‘Hey, look. I do it with a lot of other people as well,’” Rowley explained.

    Stone has long been Trump’s ally and was a campaign adviser during his 2016 presidential bid. In January 2019, Stone was arrested in relation to then-DoJ special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe regarding alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Stone was accused of lying during his 2017 testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his reported mediation between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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