- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Roger Stone’s sentencing will go forward as planned this week, a judge ruled Tuesday after a chaotic week that saw the prosecutors overseeing the case quit amid accusations of interference on the part of President Trump.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the decision during a brief telephone hearing with attorneys on both sides in the case. She said federal law does not require her to postpone sentencing while weighing Stone’s request for a new trial.

“I think that delaying the sentencing would not be a prudent thing to do under all the circumstances unless I’m required to do so,” the judge said.

She assured Stone’s legal team that he will not immediately be sent to prison until she rules on the new trial request.

Stone’s attorneys pushed for a sentencing delay while the judge reviews their request for a retrial. Judge Jackson said defense counsel should have filed a motion to postpone sentencing.

The ruling keeps Stone’s sentencing scheduled for Thursday. A Washington, D.C., jury convicted him in November of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

Calls for Judge Jackson to delay the sentencing grew last week after four prosecutors overseeing the case withdrew from it and Mr. Trump accused her of political bias.

The prosecutors resigned from the case in protest after top Justice Department officials overrode their recommendation that Stone serve a harsh prison sentence of between seven to nine years. The request for a more lenient punishment came hours after Mr. Trump criticized the prosecutors in a tweet, raising questions of White House interference.

Allegations the Justice Department was doing political favors for Stone, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump, ignited a firestorm in Washington.

Attorney General William Barr clapped back at the president last week saying the tweets make it nearly “impossible” to his job.

Mr. Trump, on Tuesday, agreed that commenting on criminal cases makes his attorney general’s job more difficult.

“I do make his job harder. I do agree with that, I do,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “The attorney general is a man with great integrity.”

The president said Mr. Barr is “working against a lot of people who don’t want to see good things happen, in my opinion.”

“I chose not to be involved” in the Stone case, Mr. Trump said.

“I’m allowed to be totally involved. I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved. I could be involved if I want to be. I think Roger Stone has been treated very unfairly.”

The president emphasized that he is standing up for people like Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to investigators.

But later Tuesday evening, the Associated Press reported that Mr. Barr has told people close to him he’s considering quitting his post over Mr. Trump not heeding his warnings.

Despite the political uproar that has engulfed Mr. Barr, a group of GOP leaders publicly expressed confidence in him, saying calls for his resignation are “unfounded”

Mr. Barr is “a man of the highest character and unquestionable integrity,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The GOP statement is a rebuke of a letter signed by more than 1,100 former Justice Department officials demanding the embattled attorney general resign in the wake of the Stone case.

“Suggestions from outside groups that the Attorney General has fallen short of the responsibilities of his office are unfounded,” the GOP leaders wrote. “The Attorney General has shown that he is committed without qualification to securing equal justice under law for all Americans.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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