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Trump Ally Roger Stone Sentenced to 40 Months in Prison. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 20, 2020 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:00]

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: -- that that is her job to distill the facts from the advocacy part of it. And, you know, what's really interesting, it's 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 without the importance of that, the system just doesn't work. And she's really cutting through all that reminding us, this is why false statements counts. This is why lying to Congress counts.

And as a good judge, she's got to listen to the advocacy, know the facts of her cases and be able to apply the law to those facts. That's what she's doing.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What's so interesting is they're not denying Roger Stone did these things. When you're seeing the president's allies, the president himself go out and talk about this. They're not denying that he did all of this, that he -- these charges are false. They're saying he just doesn't deserve such a harsh sentence. And this is Roger being Roger, this is who he is. You guys knew who he was, this, you know, political dirty trickster that he even described himself as.

So that's what so notable is that they're not denying his conduct, they're just saying he doesn't deserve to be punished for it.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Bit it also goes beyond that. It goes beyond that in the sense that they're essentially saying that they viewed this investigation as illegitimate therefore it's OK that you lied to it, and that you obstruct it.

That is a very dangerous path. That you get to decide, any citizen gets to decide whether or not the prosecution or the investigation of you is legitimate. As opposed to, you can go to another judge, you can go to another court, you can hire a new attorney, you can go public and jump up and down and say this is unfair. But that doesn't give you the right to break the law because you think the law is wrong.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, delegitimizing investigations has been quite the tactic for this White House. And we've seen that -- I mean, we just saw that with the impeachment inquiry and their unwillingness to cooperate with the House by saying what House Democrats sort of suing, they had no right to do so. I mean, clearly, they did under the constitution. But that has been a tactic for the president for some time.

KING: And if you continue the idea inside the courtroom, she understands. The judge -- this judge has been attacked by the president, he's called her an Obama appointee. If you go back in time, she was also on social media at one point in a crosshairs coming under attack in this case

In that regard, Shimon, knowing her as you do, how much of this is about her, defending her own integrity? Or is she compartmentalized enough, if that is the right word, to say, fine, I have been constantly under attack but I've been at this a few years, Trump maybe extraordinary, maybe, you know, political attacks on steroids, but I'm just going to keep my head down and bore through it.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I think this is about the greater good and the greater picture here. And that is the justice system for here. I'm certain there is a part of her that is addressing the attacks against her. She's addressed the threats that Roger Stone made against her on social media. She -- the color from courtroom from our reporter Katelyn Polantz who is there is that she was at times when she was speaking about the importance of this case and what this case was about is that she was slow. That there was emphasis on certain things that she paused at certain times.

And I don't want to say that she was angry but there was definitely some emotion from her that you wouldn't normally perhaps see from a judge. Because I think she realizes what the bigger picture here is. So I don't think this is so much personal for her, but she could perhaps be speaking for all the judges across the country who finds themselves in some way under attack by the president.

KING: Right, it is every day. I wish there were cameras in a federal courtroom, but some days more than others.

Let's get straight to CNN's Sara Murray outside the courtroom with some breaking news. Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The judge just handed down the sentence. Roger Stone will be getting prison time. He will be getting 40 months in prison. That's what the judge handed down.

That pans out to a little more than three years, also 24 months of probation. It looks (INAUDIBLE) they're still going down but the big headline here is 40 months in prison for Roger Stone. He is not going to be getting, obviously, the probation time that he had hoped for.

That still well short of the seven to nine years that prosecutors originally asked for. But the judge is send a significant message here. She's saying that when you do these things, when you try to obstruct justice, when you try to lie to Congress, when you try to tamper with witnesses, that that comes with real consequences. That is the message that she is trying to get across, among many others we've seen in this courtroom today. But the big headline here is 40 months in prison for Roger Stone. KING: Forty months in prison for Roger Stone. Sara Murray, outside the courtroom, keep bringing us the details as they come out of that courtroom.

Let's bring it in the room. Shan, I'll start with you in the sense that you had thought it would be somewhere in the two to three years range. Three years and 4 months, that is a significant sentence.

WU: That is a significant sentence. I think it sends a very strong message. I think her tongue-lashing of them really pointed out that she took his witness intimidation and obstruction very seriously.

She did run them concurrently. That's a very normal thing to do rather than running it consecutively. And she's also adding in the 24 months of probation. It seems like a very solid sentence. It sends the right message, and obviously she was not swayed by any passions on either side.

[12:35:04]

KING: And to the process, just help me with the process here in that he doesn't go to prison today. He has appeals pending, he is still asking for a new trial. So she had said the other day on this conference call, we're going to go ahead with the sentencing on Thursday and then I will deal with all of that. So Roger Stone is going to walk out of that courthouse.

PROKUPECZ: He's going to walk out. We could hear from him. He's no longer, I would assumer, right, he's no longer under the gag order technically because the case is over. He's been sentenced, what's stopping him from speaking.

KING: And she kept the gag order in place pending appeal or if it's recommended or?

WU: She may address that to him specifically. If I were his lawyer I'd certainly tell him not to make any assumptions about that. It's wise to stay quiet.

PROKUPECZ: So we'll see. We'll see if he gets -- I mean, it will be pretty interesting moment if he does gets out and he choose not to speak in court. I thought that was kind of interesting. Defenders usually show some remorse or they try to show the judge that they care about something. He chose not to do that in this case.

COLLINS: And if he does speak, the question is where does he go? Does he give a press conference? Does he go on Fox News as we saw these other officials -- or not other officials, these other beneficiaries of these pardons and these commutations? Does he do something similar to that?

That's going to be the next question as how does the president react to this? And we should note, he's out on the west coast today. He's not coming back to Washington until tomorrow, but he is been watching this incredibly closely even from afar.

KING: And we know -- sorry, go ahead.

PROKUPECZ: No, I think some folks and just, you know, people are going to make a big deal that perhaps that the judge -- that the DOJ wanted seven to nine years initially and the judge didn't agree with the. So somehow that means they were wrong for suggesting such a high sentence.

The judge ultimately said they did the right thing. They follow the guidelines here. They followed precedent. They followed what is appropriate here. It is up to me to decide ultimately what to do here.

And a lot of prosecutors I think realized that. You know, you always go for more because that's precedent. And given the crime here of intimidating a witness, it's a very serious crime. Some folks are going to take it to me, well, she didn't agree with DOJ, they were asking for two months here.

So, I don't think people should read too much into that. The bottom line is she said what they did here was the right thing. This is what I think is appropriate, and now we have a sentence for just over three years.

KING: And now we wait on the president. We wait to see if Roger Stone will speak when he comes out. We'll wait to see if Judge Berman Jackson will address the gag order issue as she allows him to leave the courtroom today. There's a couple of months , right, where all these plays out, normally two or three months before the bureau of prisons will get involved and he has these hearings that are pending. And so we wait now for the president who, again, if you look at his tweets this morning, re-tweeting and pinning to the top of his Twitter page, Tucker Carlson saying, this is an outrage.

Tweeting this morning, they said Roger Stone lied to Congress. And then the president trying to say that other people have done this as well. Again, the context of the president's tweets sometimes break the fact-check machine, but all caps, "fairness" at the end of the president's tweet.

That is the biggest hint that it is his view whether it is today, a week or months from now, or later in the year when Roger Stone is about to report to prison that this may never happened.

KIM: Yes. And he's used that same -- that unfairness rationale for some of the other folks that he has -- for sentences that he has commuted or pardoned. And the president's first event isn't until almost 3:00 our time, so he has plenty of time to be monitoring the news and figuring out what to say. And he -- as you point out, he hasn't been shy about what he thinks about the sentence. You know, when does -- if a pardon happens, when does that happen. That's a question. I mean, we even asking him for a very long time if he was ever going to pardon Michael Flynn. And that's a question that we're still asking.

But certainly the president will be watching there. I would imagine Republicans in Congress would -- most Republicans in Congress would prefer him not pardon Roger Stone and just kind of let the justice system play out except from his most closest allies. But, again, like we talked about earlier, the president doesn't -- has a lot of power -- or has all the power here.

KING: Right. But how many of those members of Congress will have the courage to speak up and tell the president you've done enough to damage the integrity of the justice system in the last couple of days, sir, why don't you leave this one alone.

And you can laugh at me when I ask you this question because I think it's going to (INAUDIBLE). You know, there are those around the president who say, when you tweet, when you get involved in this stuff, this is what causes the suburban revolt. This is what causes people, you know, independents, moderate, formerly moderate Republicans who in 2018 abandoned the Republicans for the Democratic Party. This is what unnerves them.

Step back. You're in a campaign election year. Don't do it. But?

COLLINS: And the question is what are the lasting effects of something like this on voters when they do go to the polls if they are. Because that is the thing we do hear when we go to even Trump rallies where these are the most die-hard of the president's supporters who camped overnight, they wait in line for hours. They are the ones when you asked them to see, you know, what is one thing you don't like that the president does, his tweets.

So it's something that goes back to that. Cleary, they also wrinkled the attorney general but stepping back and looking at this, it is still stunning that the president -- this is the president's long-time confidant, 30 years, Roger Stone and Donald Trump have been friends.

[12:40:01]

He is one of the first people to encourage him to run for president. And he just got sentenced to over three years in prison. The last criminal charges that were filed before Robert Mueller ended his investigation. And it's just stunning to know, you know, as someone who has covered Donald Trump for several years, who knew Roger Stone and to see that this is how this is ending up that still the question of whether or not he'll actually go to prison for one day, two days or if the president will pardon him. It's still stunning that we are getting here with the president's long-term confidant going -- for being sentenced to over three years in prison.

KING: And to that point, if you (INAUDIBLE) by the company he keeps, Roger Stone now sentenced to 40 months in prison. Paul Manafort in prison, Michael Cohen in prison, Michael Flynn awaiting sentencing.

COLLINS: Rudy Giuliani under investigation.

KING: Rudy Giuliani under investigation.

We're going to take a quick break with the courtroom session with Roger Stone has adjourned. The federal judge sentencing him to 40 months in prison. More color from inside the courtroom, more reaction on the outside of the courthouse right there, when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:45:22]

KING: Breaking news this hour, a federal judge in that courthouse you see on the right of your screen, they're sentencing Trump ally, long- time Trump associate and friend Roger Stone 40 months in prison, 24 months probation. He has to undergo substance of this testing. During that, a $20 fine imposed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson against Roger Stone for seven convictions in the Mueller investigation. We're waiting to see here, you see other people coming out of the courthouse. We're waiting to see if Mr. Stone exits.

Shimon Prokupecz is with us in studio here. This is the end in some ways. I mean, he has a motion for a new trial, he has some other motions and there will be appeals. But in some ways, this is buttoning up a chapter, a big important chapter of the Mueller investigation, and the judge seems to go out her way to defend the legitimacy of that investigation.

PROKUPECZ: The entire investigation. Just one part left and that's -- in the Mueller investigation, that's the Michael Flynn case. Had that been over, this would have been the end. And that's going to be interesting to see how Michael Flynn winds up.

But yes, I mean, what we saw here from this judge was her words just standing up for the system, standing up for prosecutors, standing up for this investigation, standing up for the entire -- what she called the administration of justice from the threats that came from Roger Stone, to the way he behaved during the course of this investigation, to the way he behaved after his arrest. She took issue with all of that.

KING: And the important context of that is she also understands at times the system is under constant attack from the president of the United States, even though at least to my knowledge she did not mention him.

I want to go live outside of the courtroom -- outside of the courthouse, excuse me. Evan Perez is there. He was inside throughout these proceedings. And Sara Murray who, of course, has helped us with indefatigable work to get through some of the notes coming in from outside.

Evan, to you first, being inside the courtroom, we've been talking about what the judge said and how harsh she was in her tongue-lashing of Roger Stone. You were listening to it. Take us inside.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. John, that was a remarkable moment there where she took points essentially looking at Roger Stone, she was -- he's standing just a few feet away from her, and she says that, you know, this case is not about Roger's hijinks, this is not about Roger being Roger, which is one of the defenses that you heard from Roger Stone's team, from some of the witnesses, even, saying this is just Roger, some of these behaviors is Roger being Roger. She says the truth still exists. The truth still matters. And she addressed the political and partisan divide, really, that there is over this case. The president suggesting that this case should never have been brought, that this prosecution should never have been done. And she said dismay and disgust at the defendants' behavior should transcend party.

And one of the interesting things that obviously we are watching for in the courtroom was how was Roger Stone behaving? He would sit at the desk, he would take notes, he -- at one point when the judge read out some of his obscene messages, some of the -- his obscene e-mails to Randy Credico and other witnesses, some of the outlandish things he did, he turned with a smirk and looked at his sort of cheering section. He had two rows of supporters inside this courtroom.

Again, just part of what you see with the Roger Stone case. That's unusual. We don't usually see two rows of supporters in any defendant, but that's what he had here. He turned and smirked, sort of glanced over at them as the judge was reading this out. You could tell, though, that the behavior that was at issue here, the threats and just his out outlandish way in which he was challenging not only Congress by lying to Congress and during his testimony, but also just challenging the very idea that he was being prosecuted with some of his Instagram posts and social media. That really bothered the judge.

KING: And, Sara, as we wait, Sara, for Roger Stone to exit the building, the points Evan just made, two rows of cheerleaders or supporters in the courtroom. A smirk. Roger Stone has always been, I've known him for 30-plus years, a performer, and about the performance and about getting attention, much like his friend the president.

MURRAY: Yes, absolutely. And I think that one of the things that the judge really want to get across today was this is not a joke. This is a criminal prosecution. It matters if you lie to Congress. It matters if you try to obstruct justice. It matters if you try to intimidate witnesses.

She made it very clear and she was scathing. And how she views Roger Stone, she called him insecure and just said over and over again, essentially, that she didn't feel like he was taking this seriously.

[12:50:01]

She also took aim at the way Stone's attorneys defended him in court during trial. You know, their argument was essentially so what. You know, who cares if you lied in these proceedings. None of these matters.

And she -- you know, the judge in her remarks said, Americans care and I care. And as Evan pointed out, she said the truth still does exist. You know, these are the arguments that prosecutors, the original set of prosecutors before they resigned from the case, were making in their closing arguments. It's very clear Amy Berman Jackson saw eye to eye in their arguments if not completely in the sentence she handed down. I mean, 40 months is a shorter duration than the seven to nine years they asked for but certainly, 40 months in prison plus two years of probation is a pretty significant sentence.

KING: Pretty significant sentence for a 67-year-old gentleman. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Evan, please.

PEREZ: Yes. I was just about to say that, you know, one of the things we were watching very closely in court -- in the courtroom was whether she was going to address sort of the drama that's been going on in the prosecution team. The prosecutor stood up at one point and she asked him -- the judge asked him, OK, which memo am I supposed to look at? What are you trying to tell me? Because essentially, there was a dissidence between the first memo which said seven to nine years was appropriate. The second one, we sort of took that back.

And the prosecutor stood up and said essentially the first memo is what applies. He essentially stood by the original recommendations of these enhancements, right, which was a much more strict guideline sentence. In the end, he, however, still said we leave it up to the court. And he apologized for some of the dramas said that there have been some miscommunication inside the Justice Department.

She addressed some of that because she clearly was bothered by the fact that this prosecutor was standing before her for the first time, didn't know the case, and she said, I wasn't really going to go by the seven to nine years, anyway, so this -- all this drama really was for nothing.

KING: And as we wait, we're showing you that door of the courthouse on the right hand side of your screen, we're told Roger Stone is inside like any defendant leaving a trial in which they have been sentenced. Paperwork to fill out. There is bureaucracy involved in the process as well.

And to Evan and Sara outside, we know this judge, she was sentencing Roger Stone. She has been involved in high-profile cases with a lot of political atmospherics before. But she was sentencing a fried of the president today at a time she has been under steady constant attack from the president himself who is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America as he's been fond of reminding us in recent days. Did the president come up directly during the proceedings?

PEREZ: The president did. She said that -- you know, one of the things she addressed was why Roger Stone was lying. It wasn't about his lying about his political activity. She said this was about protecting the president. This was about covering up for the president.

That was really just one of the other couple mentions that she brought up, you know, about the fact that some of Roger Stone -- certainly Roger Stone's defenders, his defense team in court has sort of tried to portray that, you know, a lot of what came to Roger was about the fact that he was essentially participating in the political process, that he had a first amendment right. And really, in the end, as Sara pointed out, a lot of what Roger did didn't really have an effect. Because Robert Mueller and his investigators ended up getting the information that they needed. And she said, no, that is not what matters. What matters here is that Roger Stone was trying to cover up and he's trying to cover up for the president of the United States.

MURRAY: And I think, John, I that that's a striking thing to remember if we do see the president move forward with a pardon, that the prosecutors made this clear and the judge made it clear that it wasn't just that Roger Stone lied, he lied in order to protect President Trump, then-candidate Trump, and Trump's 2016 campaign. And so effectively Trump would be pardoning someone who lied to Congress and lied to protect the president.

Yes. He would be pardoning his loyalist who lied to protect him.

KING: He would be rewarding somebody who corrupted the system to defend the president. That's what he would be doing.

Evan and Sara, standby. We're waiting for Roger Stone exit the building. As we come back into the studio, to the question of a pardon, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who was the ranking member when the Republicans-controlled Congress and all this played out. Just tweeting, "Roger Stone was found guilty of lying to Congress and threatening a witness." He did, Chairman Schiff says to cover up for Trump. "His sentence is justified. It should go without saying, but to pardon Stone when his crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of corruption."

Chairman Schiff can view it that way, Shan, but it is within the president's power, correct?

WU: It's completely within his power, and he has no particular word process involved in to exercise that power. And he's very much weaponized it as a political method of blustering. So I think more so than his past history of not pardoning his close confidants, I think this is the one to watch, this is the most likely use of his pardon power.

[12:55:01]

PROKUPECZ: He had some time to do it because Roger Stone is not going to prison tomorrow. I mean, we're going to have some time. We don't exactly know when he's going to prison. So he has some time to do where Roger Stone imagine this one not even spend one day in prison.

KING: And the president has some events later this afternoon. He has the internet at his disposal. We will see.

COLLINS: A rally tonight.

KING: A rally tonight so we will see if the president weighs in here. I suspect because Chairman Schiff said up, the president's instinct would be down, meaning, the opposite of Schiff is what works for Trump.

Thanks for joining us today in a very busy INSIDE POLITICS. Stay with us. Brianna Keilar picks up our special coverage after a very quick break. Have a good afternoon.

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