Return to Transcripts main page
Roger Stone Convicted In Mueller Investigations With Seven Counts; One Count Of Obstruction Of An Official Proceeding; Five Counts Of False Statements Including Lying To Congress; One Count Of Witness Tampering; Any Moment: Judge In Roger Stone Case To Announce Sentence. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired February 20, 2020 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing this very busy news day with us. We begin the hour with breaking federal courtroom news an important case the judge in the Roger Stone trial speaking right now.
That judge, Amy Berman Jackson, siding several times this morning with the Justice Department, saying Roger Stone's crimes deserve harsh punishment. The judge also pointedly asking the prosecution about the abrupt decision to overrule a sentencing memo written by the original four prosecutors on the case, all four of whom then quit over this dispute with the main Justice Department.
CNN's Sara Murray is outside the courthouse for us. Sara, the judge here speaking very candidly, very strongly, saying Roger Stone's team wants to say this all politics? She says no.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely she's in the process of running through basically everything that led up to this moment of Roger Stone being in court for sentencing. The President and his allies argue that this all just because Roger Stone and his friends with the President. He was his political adviser.
This what the judge said, this case did not arise because Roger Stone was being pursued by his political enemies it arose because Roger Stone characteristically injected himself smack into the middle of one of the most significant issues of the day.
And she's recounting how Roger Stone is out there publicly, saying that he was in touch with WikiLeaks. She's recounting how Roger Stone told Congress that he didn't have any conversations with the Trump Campaign about WikiLeaks, and she's saying we had witnesses up here and testified you talked to the candidate himself, you talked to candidate Trump about WikiLeaks.
So she's really running through, trying to set the record straight about the facts of the case, which is, of course, particularly important in the wake of all of these attacks as seen by President Trump on the judge, on the jury, on this case in general as he has defended his friend Roger Stone. And this has sort of been a moment of contrition in this courtroom, too, from the prosecutors as these are the new prosecutors on the case. They came into the courtroom today. They apologized to the judge for the confusion that they have caused, and they repeatedly agreed with the judge that Roger Stone deserved harsher sentences for some of these crimes he's committed, like obstruction and witness tampering.
Ultimately they said they would defer to the judge and that they trusted the court to impose a fair sentence. You know, another sort of swipe at the President there who has insisted throughout this case that Roger Stone is being unfairly treated, John.
KING: Sara Murray, I suspect you'll be back with us momentarily as we await the judge to actually impose the sentence she is going through each of the counts against Roger Stone now making clear she views them as quite severely. Sara will be back with us when we get that word from the court room.
With me in the studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Kaitlan Collins Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post" CNN Legal Analyst Shan Wu and CNN's Crime and Justice Reporter Shimon Prokupecz.
Shimon I want to start with you in the sense that you're familiar with the judge you're very familiar with the case. The fact that she is going taking her time to go through each of the counts and to make clear, sorry, Mr. Stone, I dispute everything your side has said about the politics here about you being railroaded here. What does that tell you?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It says that look that we've been waiting to hear from her for quite some time now right? There have been attacks lobbed at her by the President. There have been attacks by Roger Stone.
She made a point in raising that just before she took to break saying how the treats against her on social media talking about that and how it's intolerable to the administration of justice, and to say that that kind of behavior by Roger Stone is just Roger being Roger is unacceptable.
She has obviously taken this very seriously. Keen on this, and this is what's going on now, is her going over the threats to a witness here. This is what's also a very important part of this case is the fact that Roger Stone threatened a witness here.
It's not just about him lying to Congress. The more important point here is that he threatened a witness. That is what she's going over now. It does sound like she's going to give him a couple years or so, we don't know, obviously, but she's going over everything that would seem to indicate that she is, perhaps, we don't know this yet, but is not going to go as light as on him as he would like and certainly his team and certainly the President.
KING: Certainly the President and again part of the sub part of all of this is the expectation is if you look at the President's Twitter feed, that he'll eventually pardon Roger Stone. The question is when he will do such a thing?
First of all we're going to see with the judge and so Shan, I know the answer is no. So how do you handle a case where you're on the prosecution or the defense or you're the federal judge who has been directly attacked repeatedly by the President of the United States?
How do you wall that out and make a decision that says this is about the facts of the case, this is about the law, this is about comparative sentencing and the guidelines, this is not about the fact that the President of the United States is in my face almost every day now.
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, she is very well suited for this. She is very calm under pressure when I was before her ages ago in the Gates case she handled that publicity very well. She's going to focus on the facts and the law in front of her.
But it's really an extraordinary situation. I mean, I have never seen something like this. The other lawyer, "In the courtroom is Donald Trump", and the judge is directly addressing his arguments through building this case, telling the world, telling the public this is a just case and don't pay attention to what the President has been saying. That's what's really going on here.
KING: That is really what's going on here, and the President, obviously, is trying to influence the judge. We don't think he's going to succeed in that regard, because she is viewed as very tough and independent.
But just this morning Kaitlan Collins, that the President has attacked the judge he has attacked the process, he has attacked the Muller investigation now going on years plus. They say Roger Stone lied to Congress at CNN. I'm glad he is watching.
Oh, I see, but so did Comey and he leak in classified information. The President goes on and so did Andy McCabe. You have to be careful when you read the President's tweets because a lot in the back half of them is not necessarily factual or at least not contextual. But as the hearing is underway the President knows the sentencing is underway and there he is.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I think we all realize that he is not going to influence whatever decision she makes today, she's not going to let the President's tweets do that.
But what he could be making the case for is if he does pardon Roger Stone, he's already building his argument for why he should do so, arguing that she's biased, arguing that the jury wasn't unbiased in this situation, making these cases for why he should pardon Roger Stone?
I mean, it's pretty clear what he's been thinking of, even though yesterday he denied to us that he's been considering whether or not he should pardon him. We know that several people he's spoken with have been talking with him about this, and they're been people lobbying to President to pardon Stone.
And of course it comes on the wake of these other pardons and commutations as we saw this week. One interesting thing about his attacks on the judge is that is something that he has really gotten under Bill Barr's skin.
He doesn't like that the President is going out and attacking this judge who they have a case before, and that the President has not, you know, subsided in those attacks at all.
KING: And part of the argument, here whether you're the Attorney General or anybody else watching this is, even if you accept the argument that the Mueller investigation never should have existed, even if you accept that argument it doesn't give you the right to lie to Congress, it doesn't give you the right to threaten witnesses.
If you tell the truth in those investigations if it is illegitimate investigations assuming they can tell the truth, no harm, no foul. But certainly this is another case where we know the President he will get advice from the Justice Department.
I suspect it would be, as the Attorney General said in the interview with the ABC, please stop live tweeting, meddling in my cases publicly, that is not helpful. But we also know that he gets his advice somewhere else, whether it comes from a case like this or some of these pardons he has issued that he watches Fox News, and if you look at his Twitter feed, pinned to the top is part of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Stone's prosecution was wholly political. It was a shocking insult to the American tradition of equal justice. Obama appointed Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an open Democratic partisan a lot of former congressional candidate a Democrat with a history of attacking Stone to run the jury in the case.
Then Judge Jackson strips Stone who was first amendment rights. She threatened to send him to jail if he tried to defend himself in public. That's why Roger Stone is not on this show tonight. He could go to prison for it. President Trump could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon fixing it is the right thing to do, and in the end that is the only thing that mattered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: If you're familiar with Tucker, who is very good on television, he's reading a teleprompter there. This is not him at living. So he wrote a script in which he said essentially this prosecution is invalid, this judge is a Democrat, this judge is biased.
If you know the history of Judge Jackson she is viewed very fairly actually across the political spectrum. But the President has his, shall we say, boom box, and he often listens.
SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: He very often listens, so not only as Kaitlan said is Tucker helping President lead a ground work for potentially for Roger Stone pardon here, but we've seen with some of the other pardons that he's done over his presidency, that he does take his cues from Fox News.
Take Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich whose wife went on Fox News to plead for lenience on her husband. Part of the President that was clearly part of the decision making process. And we know that the President and his advisers are taking other ways to kind of expand his use of the pardon power.
My colleagues at "The Washington Post" reported that the White House is creating kind of this informal task force to broaden that use to see who else should be pardoned, whose sentences should also be commuted, led in part by Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law.
We've also known for sometimes that the President really does relish his part in power because one of the powers where the President is basically unchecked. Congress can do nothing about it, no one really can, and that's another part that's been really appealing to this President.
KING: Right and that is just playing out. It is a campaign year too as well we'll see. It definitely appeals to his base. The question is do other voters are turned off by it? We're waiting Judge Amy Berman Jackson right now going through each of the seven counts against Roger Stone. She is imposing her sentence. We should get that word any moment. We're going to sneak in a quick break. We'll be back in just a moment.
KING: Back to our breaking news this hour, a federal judge in the process of sentencing Roger Stone, the long-time Trump Associate and ally for his convictions as part of the Mueller investigation. As she sentences Stone and goes through the counts, the Federal Judge, Amy Berman Jackson, is giving Mr. Stone a tongue lashing.
Let's go live outside the court house to CNN's Sara Murray. Sara, the judge going through those counts and essentially calling Roger Stone insecure, saying he craves attention and saying this is all his fault don't blame politics and don't blame her.
MURRAY: Yes, basically. She's also laying out the various crimes. When she was talking about him lying to Congress, she said, this is not some secret Anti-Trump, but to Congress she noted that the panel was being headed by a Republican Devin Nunes at the time and yes she is not very fond of the way Trump has conducted himself during this trial about Roger Stone's character.
MURRAY: She says at his core Mr. Stone is an insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention. Nothing about this case was a joke, it wasn't funny. She is now walking through how she views the two Justice Department sentencing memos, the original one and the revised memo. She has agreed with various parts of both of them.
She has only said probation wouldn't be sufficient. So we're still waiting to see what the sentence is she's going to hand down. But she's making a very clear in these remarks that she doesn't feel like Roger Stone has taken this case or his prosecution very seriously.
She views his crimes very seriously and I think what you've seen more broadly in this courtroom is the Judge and even the new prosecutors on this case trying to set the record straight, trying to protect the judicial system, trying to lay out that it is not okay to obstruct justice, it is not okay to tamper with witnesses. The big question now is you know what sentence the Judge is ultimately going to land on?
KING: And we should get that momentarily. Sara Murray will come back to us when we get color or the sentencing details from the courtroom. Shan, I just want to get your prospective on this in the sense that the original Justice Department memo which a lot of people thought a bit on the harsh side 7 to 9 years.
Main justice intervenes then which is an extraordinary especially because the President himself was tweeting, let's do something about this, I think this is an outrage. In the case of Paul Manafort the sentencing guidelines - she could have sentenced him for up to ten years she gave him 3.5 years. What is her history and just put the case in all the politics surrounded it in the context of what do you think she is going to come down here?
WU: Well, it is a quite colored defendant not a violent crime. He does not have a history of this. He is an older person. A big help to him is that Randy Credico the victim of the obstruction wrote certain ambiguous letter saying he didn't feel personally that threatened by it.
But the fact is he did make that attempt to obstruct justice. I thought the 7 to 9 years was highly unrealistic. I mean, I get the prosecutors want a heavier sentence when you've tried defendant and convicted him and he is very unrepentant, but I thought all along she is going to be more in the two to three range.
COLLINS: So one interesting thing she just said about that letter from Credico saying it says more about him than it does about Stone, and that he just really probably in her opinion didn't want to be seen as the reason behind this sentencing today.
But she did say something else interesting, she just said you know it wasn't obstructing to some secret Anti-Trump group, it was to Congress, members of both parties, Republicans and Democrats, and she pointed out that the committee that the lied to was at that time headed by a Republican and an ally of the President, Devin Nunes. So I think she is trying to go ahead and combat what we're going to be hearing from the President's allies depending on how this all ends up.
KING: And to that point, Shimon, she seems to be she's addressing Roger Stone but she seems to be addressing the President as well in all the arguments he has made it about a deep state, about a flawed process. She's defending the integrity of the Mueller investigation she is defending the integrity of the rights of Congress to ask people questions. She's essentially saying, Roger Stone, your excuses do not fly here, and Roger Stone's excuses are the President's excuses.
PROKUPECZ: She is essentially - she's standing up for the Department of Justice and she's standing up for justice. This is her moment to stand up to all the attacks from the President in this entire investigation towards the Justice Department, to its judges.
That is the whole point of this in the end. There is a larger motivation here without a doubt. There's been a larger motivation here throughout this entire trial, throughout these entire proceedings. And the fear is that people aren't going to take this seriously.
You know, she is in court right now and she's standing up for the Department of Justice, for the prosecutors who filed that initial sentencing memorandum, saying that it was professionally handled, that it was thorough. And any suggestion that the prosecutors did anything improper or unethical is incorrect.
She's saying what the prosecutors were doing their job. This is what they do. These are the guidelines that they go by, and it is for me to interpret them. Now, what she does and whether she agrees something is too excessive, that's the process.
But the President interfered in that process, and the Attorney General interfered in that process. She's now trying to correct it.
COLLINS: Well, that's what's so interesting is that it didn't sound like she was going to go along with the seven to nine years anyway. So they could have left it and she likely wouldn't have gone along with it. So--
PROKUPECZ: And Shan you - this is standard prosecutors I mean, they always ask for more.
WU: Right, right. And I think the Shimon's point we were talking about this earlier she is really trying to bring home the point to the public, other potential jurors in the future, this matters. There is a tendency now in the Trump Era, jurors may look at this and say, it doesn't matter what we do, this is all bunch of political nonsense. He is going to pardon everybody.
I mean, she's really making an effort to say the system matters, there's integrity. Jurors' jobs are very sacred, the judge's job is sacred and the prosecutors' job is sacred.
KING: Again, if you look at the charges here one count of obstruction of an official proceeding. Five counts of false statements including lying to Congress one count of witness tampering. These are very serious allegations and they want to wave them off as Muller witch hunt, Mueller witch hoax. Again even if you at home believe Mueller was a witch hunt he was the prosecutor. He had the standing. Even if you believe Congress or - as to your point too this was a Republican committee at the time but Congress is an institution you cannot lie when you're under oath.
This is almost a battle to reset the order in Washington with the Federal Judge trying to defend the system at a time she knows the President has been constantly undermining it and may be willing, either within days or hours of this sentencing, or maybe he'll wait until the appeal process plays out, to sign a piece of paper and say, never mind, Roger, you're free.
KIM: Definitely, I mean, the President has been trying to upend this system for some time. And you know you've seen this Judge in particular push back. You've seen Chief Justice John Roberts in an extraordinary fashion over a year ago push back on the President's criticisms of the judiciary whether he calls them Obama judges or Bush judges.
And you've seen Attorney General William Barr trying to push back a little bit too, saying that you know he wishes he wouldn't tweet so much about the cases. It's been fascinating to watch that Trump/Barr relationship, though, because I think we can all agree it is nowhere near as sour as it was between the President and Jeff Sessions when he was in the Attorney General's position.
So you know what's been Barr's motivation to speak out against the President's comments because we know he's not going to stop tweeting. He is just tweeting about it this morning when he's out on his western swing. Does Barr, who has been such a stalwart for the President on a lot of these issues, does he eventually get under the President's skin? I think that would be really important dynamic to watch.
KING: We'll watch it play out. The President even make new exhibits in that tension if you will relationship is this day plays out, we're going to take another quick break. We're waiting again for the sentencing of long-time Trump ally of Roger Stone, for his convictions on seven counts coming from the Mueller investigation. The sentencing is taking a bit longer than we anticipated because the judge is giving the defendant a tongue lashing. We'll be right back.
KING: Our breaking news this hour a crime and punishment story the long time Presidential ally Roger Stone in Federal Court right now being lectured by the judge who oversaw his trial as part of the Mueller investigation.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson about to impose her sentence on Roger Stone we know he'll get prison time, we do not know how much. She is going through a number of grievances against him, and she defends the case brought by the prosecutors in the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office. And that she decries Mr. Stone and by extension the President of the United States for constantly criticizing the arms of government including the judiciary the Special Counsel's Office and the Congress that are involved in this case investigations.
Shimon Prokupecz is with us and you've been watching some of the notes coming out from our courtroom team. She is being beyond scathing.
PROKUPECZ: She is being beyond scathing. taking it right to the president at this point, describing the prosecution of roger stone, and what she says, and I'm going to quote here, that Roger Stone was not prosecuted for standing up for the President, he was prosecuted for covering up for the President.
And that is what this trial was ultimately about. The fact that Roger Stone went before Congress, lied to them, and didn't submit information that he had that he should have, and throughout this trial, that was the point the prosecutors had made, that Roger Stone did this to protect the President.
And here is what the judge is saying. You were doing this to protect the President. You covered up for the President. And she's using that as part of her sentencing. The other thing I want to make of what she's saying, and I've made a point of this.
When Roger Stone's Attorneys came into court and they were arguing to the jury, so what, this is no big deal, so what, so what. The prosecutors obviously had a very different take on this. Their whole argument was this is about truth, this is about our system, this is about Congress and how you cannot go before Congress and just on your own decide that you're going to lie and obstruct and get in the way of an investigation.
The judge is saying the exact same thing here. We'll see. We're getting there, we're getting closer. But as she said when she took the bench now about 40 minutes ago, she had a lot to say, and boy, does she certainly have a lot to say here.
KING: She was not lying when starting the proceedings by saying this might take a while because she has a lot to say. And Shan she is central to this in the sense that she especially among the judges, knows as much about the Mueller investigation if not more than any because she has handled so many of the high-profile cases including the more significantly the case of Paul Manafort, who was the President's Former Campaign Chairman who is in jail.
Rick Gates, who was the Former Trump Deputy Campaign Manager who then went on to cooperate quite a bit, including in the Roger Stone trial the President is on the record is saying he doesn't remember Roger Stone ever tipping him off that, about hey, WikiLeaks has this information and they're going to release it.
Rick Gates testified he was in the car with the President of the United States when Roger Stone called and gave the President the heads up about this. So when Roger Stone's person as Shimon was saying no big deal, Judge Jackson knows everything. Not just what happened, not just what happened in this proceeding but what she's learned from the other proceeding as well?
WU: Right. And she is doing a great job of that that is her job to still the facts from the advocacy part of it. And you know what is really interesting it is a great lesson in civics for people watching this because there's so much talk these days about perjury traps. And it really tends to disparage the importance of telling the truth under oath because with--