Now he belongs to the ages: We'll admit that we're never glad to hear that someone is going to prison.
That said, Roger Stone has been sentenced to forty months, pending a possible retrial or pardon. Now it falls to our tribal tribunes to explain why his sentence was so light.
For what it's worth, Stone has always seemed a little bit nutty. He has a tattoo of Nixon on his back, and things go sideways from there.
Almost everyone seems to be crazy now. But long ago, long before crazy was cool, Stone was already like this.
Originally, the Justice Department recommended a sentence of 7-9 years. On cable, this made our liberal hearts glad.
One day later, the DOJ scaled that back, suggesting 3-4 years. On cable, we were told this was much too soft, and that Judge Amy Berman Jackson was a strong-willed, non-nonsense judicial performer.
Now, the no-nonsense performer has given Stone a sentence which lands right in the middle of that amended range. Our tribunes have some explaining to do, though they'll surely be up to the challenge.
In this matter, as in everything else, whatever you've heard has almost surely been narrative. It's all tribal talking points now. We can't tell you where to go to get an unbiased, information-based perspective on this or on anything else.
We haven't read Jackson's full statement yet. For now, we'll offer what follows.
According to the Washington Post, Jackson said the following in her statement today:
WEINER, ZAPOTOSKY AND JACKSON (2/20/20): In a lengthy speech before imposing the penalty, Jackson seemed to take aim at Trump, saying that Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” She also appeared to call out Attorney General William P. Barr, whose intervention to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation she called “unprecedented.” But she said the politics surrounding the case had not influenced her final decision.If that report is accurate, Jackson said Barr's conduct was "unprecedented." But in this morning's Washington Post, George Terwilliger seems to say something different:
TERWILLIGER (2/20/2020): I served in the Justice Department for 15 years, half of that time as a career prosecutor. From time to time, I was overruled on decisions involving my cases. My judgment was better for the benefit of oversight and supervision, including from the politically appointed U.S. attorney. Whether direction came from even higher authority is unknown to me, but if it did, I would see it no differently. That is how a chain of command must work.Terwilliger goes on from there. Overall, he seems to offer quite a bit of detail.
I also served in a Republican administration as deputy attorney general and acting attorney general. In that capacity, I recall no one decrying interference when I overruled the recommendation of line prosecutors and the department’s criminal division that a then-sitting U.S. senator should be indicted. He was a Democrat. I also approved the prosecution of another sitting senator. He was a Republican. Those matters came up through the bureaucracy because they were highly visible and politically controversial.
The decisions of the dedicated professionals who are the heart and soul of the department merit respect and a substantial degree of deference. But those decisions must also be subject to review. The higher the profile of a case, the more deserving it is of high-level attention, because the public will measure the department by its actions in such matters.
Is there an actual disagreement here, or just the appearance of same? At this point, we can't say. We can offer this embarrassing fact:
Jackson's decision put her in agreement with Barr's amended recommendation, not with the original recommendation which he overruled.
We can't tell you if Jackson and Terwilliger actually disagree on this matter. We can tell you this:
Whatever you hear on cable today will be sifted through the tribal blender. Almost everything you hear at this point is narrative all the way down.
Stone has always had a screw loose. Barr's amended recommendation said he deserved imprisonment.
It's also true that you're being propagandized almost any time you dial up "cable news." A lot of product is being sold as you're told that the cable talkers are a collection of "friends." Beyond that, a lot of the people you see on your screen are living inside some political, professional or social bubble.
Especially on MSNBC, everyone will agree on every point. Alternate viewpoints will almost never be heard.
Stone has always seemed to have a screw loose. The larger question we face is this:
How did our liberal team ever reach the point where we could lose an election to Donald J. Trump? Also, how does the world actually look to the 63 million people who voted the way we didn't?
More on that last question tomorrow. For tonight, let the tribal framing begin!