The claim sounded like something from Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) or Rachel Maddow or any number of Russian collusion propagandists: “He was not prosecuted for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
Those words, however, were not uttered on MSNBC but rather in a federal courtroom by Amy Berman Jackson, a U.S. district court judge seated in the nation’s capital, whose job is to ensure the fair administration of justice based on the rule of law. The “he” Jackson was referring to is Roger Stone, a Trump confidant; the “president,” of course, is Donald Trump.
Now, Stone wasn’t charged with covering up for the president nor did the indictment against him suggest as much. There was nothing to “cover up” as election collusion is a fantasy concocted by the Democrats and the news media. But the Obama-appointee was on a roll; facts, at that point, didn’t matter to Jackson. (In a tweet Thursday morning, Schiff echoed Jackson’s evidence-free remark, claiming Stone “did it to cover up for Trump.”)
Her absurd and blatantly political accusation from the bench was just part of Jackson’s 40-minute monologue Thursday morning prior to sentencing Stone to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress, obstructing justice, and witness tampering. (The loquacious judge doesn’t like competition; she put a gag order on Stone last year that is still in effect.)
The seven charges against Stone stemmed from Robert Mueller’s investigation into nonexistent collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The Justice Department accused Stone of thwarting a similar investigation conducted by the House Intelligence Committee, then headed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
The case against Stone is rooted in the claim that the Russians hacked the email system of the Democratic National Committee—an intrusion, it’s important to note, that is backed up solely by an analysis conducted by CrowdStrike, a private cybersecurity firm. The politically connected company was hired to investigate the breach in the spring of 2016 by Perkins Coie, the same law firm that hired Fusion GPS to do opposition research on Trump. The DNC refused to surrender any devices or data to the FBI, despite several requests by then-director James Comey.
Stone allegedly, in no small measure due to his own boasting, was in touch with WikiLeaks, the website that eventually leaked the DNC’s hacked emails. His concealment of communications related to WikiLeaks earned Stone and his wife an early-morning FBI raid at their home in January 2019 as the CNN news cameras rolled.
Former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wrote this of the government’s case against the eccentric political gadfly prior to his sentencing Thursday:
The Stone prosecution is more politics than law enforcement. It was the Mueller probe’s last gasp at pretending there might be something to the Russia-collusion narrative. Notwithstanding that, when the “gee, it sure feels like there could be some collusion here” indictment was filed, over a year and a half after special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, it had long been manifest that there was no Trump–Russia conspiracy.
It appears that Jackson, like so many Trump-haters in the Beltway, still clings to the fantasy that the collusion hoax is legitimate.
Evidently, in the judge’s mind, bad actors like Stone are the only reason why Team Mueller and congressional investigators failed to find what Schiff repeatedly assured the public was convincing evidence of collusion. Jackson told the courtroom prior to her ruling that Stone’s deception “led to an inaccurate, incomplete and incorrect report,” by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee.
But there is no evidence to support Judge Jackson’s accusation, nor did she offer any explanation. The lengthy report issued in March 2018—one month after Nunes released his memo revealing for the first time how the FBI deceived the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—details the committee’s yearlong investigation into the matter. The report concluded that while the Russians attempted to interfere in the election, there was no coordination to do so with members of the Trump campaign.
Jackson’s purpose was clear: To assist the Democrats’ nonstop crusade to undermine the credibility of Nunes and his report, and to suggest that if only Trump’s lackeys hadn’t hampered the work of dozens of super-smart investigators working with unlimited resources, proof of the secret conspiracy would have been uncovered and Trump would have been ousted from the White House.
In a statement by email, Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, told me: “Our 240-page report has precisely one sentence that may be inaccurate information provided by Stone. That line had no impact on any of the report’s findings whatsoever. For the judge to use that to characterize our report as inaccurate and incomplete is absurd. Then again, a lot of the judge’s sentencing speech seemed to be regurgitating the Democrats’ debunked talking points about Russian collusion.”
That was not Jackson’s only impersonation of Adam Schiff; she went full drama queen mode warning that Stone poses an insidious danger to the very foundation of our nation.
“The truth still exists, the truth still matters,” Jackson lectured. (This is exactly why we need cameras in federal courtrooms so the public is privy to these sort of self-indulgent performances.) “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions. If it goes unpunished it will not be a victory for one party or another. Everyone loses.”
And it isn’t just enough for the judge to express her outrage about how Roger Stone almost single-handedly destroyed the work of our founding fathers by misleading lawmakers pursuing a concocted crime. No, we all need to rise up to signal our collective “dismay and disgust” at the American menace with a Nixon tattoo—and it must, the judge ordered, “transcend party.”
Jackson rattled off all the parties who “cared” about making sure Stone paid for his crimes against humanity, including Congress and the American people. (It’s a safe bet most Americans were paying no attention to this trial or could even identify Stone in a lineup.) She took more potshots at Stone; perhaps without being ironic, Jackson called Stone an “insecure” person who craves attention.
Jackson’s grandstanding might have been met with shrugs (or ignored altogether) in any other political climate but her dire warnings about the necessary consequences for committing perjury and obstructing justice and covering up for political pals demonstrate an astonishing level of hypocrisy if not flat-out complicity in the selective application of the law.
The president and his supporters can hardly tolerate lectures about fairness when Trump foes such as Andrew McCabe, James Comey, Hillary Clinton, John Brennan, James Clapper, and others continue to escape justice for far worse crimes.
Further, unlike Stone, those offenders held positions of power and influence—and abused both in service of achieving their mutual goal that Jackson so dramatically endorsed today: The sabotage of Donald Trump and anyone associated with him.
The people, like Jackson, who claim to hold the greatest devotion to our institutions, who purport to cherish the rule of law above all else, are the ones responsible for systematically demolishing it all.