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Roger Stone Was Sentenced To Prison But Will Trump Intervene?

NOEL KING, HOST:

The truth still matters. That's what Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson said when she sentenced Roger Stone to 40 months in federal prison yesterday. Roger Stone is an old friend of President Trump's. He's also advised the president. He was convicted in November for witness tampering and for lying to Congress. Those charges came out of the Mueller report.

Prosecutors at the Department of Justice recommended that he get sentenced to seven to nine years. But then Attorney General William Barr lessened the recommendation, and President Trump signaled his approval of that move, prompting Barr to ask Trump essentially to stay out of it. Former federal prosecutor Shan Wu is with me now.

Good morning, Shan.

SHAN WU: Good morning.

KING: Roger Stone - sentenced to three years and four months. What did you think when you heard that?

WU: I had actually expected a sentence in that range because, originally, the seven to nine seemed a little bit unrealistically high.

KING: Even to you?

WU: Completely proper, even to the - yeah - proper under the guidelines, especially given the fact that Stone had forced them to try him and also did not appear to show any signs of remorse. But nonetheless, for a first-time offender, non-violent crime, seven to nine seemed a little bit unrealistic to ask for.

Also, I think it was important that the victim of the obstruction, Randy Credico, had submitted a letter - perhaps a little bit ambiguous in its intent - but saying that he had not taken the threat that seriously. So that also would tend to mitigate in Stone's favor. Nonetheless, it's a significant sentence, and it's well-deserved.

KING: To clarify, Randy Credico was the witness that Roger Stone was accused of tampering with - right? - trying to prevent him from testifying?

WU: Exactly. And threatening his dog, I believe.

KING: Threatening his dog - OK. Judge Jackson made some really strong statements yesterday. She said Stone was, quote, "not prosecuted for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president." Is that typical in a sentencing like this?

WU: Not at all. It was quite extraordinary, actually. In many ways, the judge seemed to be addressing the third person in the room, which was really President Trump. In light of all of his criticisms, all the tweeting, all the undermining of the case, she did actually seem to be talking to him, pointing out that the truth still mattered, that all the facts in this case were properly supported by the evidence.

And so that really was a rather extraordinary moment where the judicial branch was really addressing the executive branch through this intermediary of the defendant.

KING: Do you think she was also saying to the president that the judicial branch is not going to be swayed by him tweeting about their work?

WU: I think so. Yeah, her actions speak louder than the words. I was a little bit surprised she actually said that much because she's a pretty methodical, matter-of-fact judge, even under pressure. But I think it was important for her to speak up this way and to say that the judicial branch is doing its job independently.

KING: President Trump has tweeted and spoken quite a bit about the sentencing. Do you think that he will pardon Roger Stone?

WU: Yeah, I'm a little bit half-and-half on that. He has yet to pardon anybody, actually - an associate of his. For example, Manafort, Cohen, Gates - all those folks have not been pardoned. And it's interesting because had he done so earlier, he really could have completely taken the legs out from under the Mueller investigation.

On the other hand, he does seem quite empowered these days, post-impeachment, almost weaponizing the power of the pardon and the commutation. So I think if I were Stone, I would be fairly optimistic at this point. But it's a question of when - probably not whether.

KING: OK. Shan Wu is a former federal prosecutor, and he joined us this morning from the airport.

Shan, thanks so much for taking the time. We appreciate it.

WU: You're welcome. Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.