The Frothy Right Is Complaining that Amy Berman Jackson Sentenced Roger Stone to 57% of Lower Guidelines

In the aftermath of the news of Roger Stone’s sentence yesterday, some of DOJ’s beat journalists are doing irresponsible pieces giving Bill Barr’s close associates anonymity to lie, with no pushback, about what happened.

Another Justice Department official called Stone’s sentence a “vindication” of the attorney general’s decision last week to insert himself into the process, calling for a revised sentencing memorandum that undercut the line prosecutors’ prior recommendation of seven to nine years in prison. Four prosecutors quit the Stone case over the disagreement, and current and former Justice Department officials grew alarmed Trump was short-circuiting the law enforcement agency’s traditional independence. More than 2,600 former employees have signed onto a letter calling on Barr to resign over his handling of the matter.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson in no way vindicated Bill Barr’s intervention, and any experienced DOJ reporter passing on the claim unchallenged is doing their readers a gross disservice.

Worse still, confusion about what happened yesterday has permitted the frothy right to attack ABJ for what was a lenient sentence.

So I’d like to show how ABJ came up with her sentence. It shows that ABJ sentenced Stone to 57% of the sentence she judged the guidelines call for.

Probation Recommendation: 70-87 months

Between the original sentencing memo and Stone’s own memo, we can obtain what probation initially recommended. It started with a base offense level for Stone’s Obstruction, False Statements, and Witness Tampering of 14 (which would result in a 15 to 21 month guidelines sentence). Then it added four enhancements (Stone even cites the paragraphs of the presentencing report where Probation recommended these enhancements). First, it called for an 8-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. §2J1.2(b)(1)(B), which reads (PDF 243):

If the offense involved causing or threatening to cause physical injury to a person, or property damage, in order to obstruct the administration of justice, increase by 8 levels.

Next, it called for a 3-level enhancement for substantial interference with the administration of justice under U.S.S.G. §2J1.2(b)(1)(2) (meaning, the obstruction worked):

If the offense resulted in substantial interference with the administration of justice, increase by 3 levels.

Probation called for a 2-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. §2J1.2(b)(3)(C) for the extensive nature of Stone’s obstruction:

If the offense … (C) was otherwise extensive in scope, planning, or preparation, increase by 2 levels.

Given a footnote in Stone’s memo (and something ABJ said in the hearing yesterday), it appears that the government objected to the original January 16 recommendation from the Probation office and convinced them to apply this enhancement.

Obstruction of Justice 2 U.S.S.G. §2J1.2(b)(3)(C) 2 level increase ¶77

2 Government’s Objection to Presentence Investigation Report, dated January 30, 2020.

Finally, it called for a 2-level enhancement U.S.S.G. §3C1.1 2 for obstruction of this proceeding (meaning, his prosecution for the original obstruction charge; this is at PDF 367).

If (1) the defendant willfully obstructed or impeded, or attempted to obstruct or impede, the administration of justice with respect to the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of the instant offense of conviction, and (2) the obstructive conduct related to (A) the defendant’s offense of conviction and any relevant conduct; or (B) a closely related offense, increase the offense level by 2 levels.

The sentencing table can be found at PDF 415. It provides a range of 87 to 108 months for a first time offender, as Stone is.

According to the transcript, however, the final recommendation did not apply the 2-level enhancement for the extensive obstruction. That provides a range for 70-87 months.

Prosecution Recommendation: 87-108 months

In May 2017, Jeff Sessions issued an order stating that “prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” which are, “by definition … those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence.” It also stated that, “In most cases, recommending a sentence within the advisory guideline range will be appropriate.”

ABJ noted this policy yesterday in the sentencing hearing.

And that’s what the prosecution team did — recommend the same 87 to 108 months the Probation Office came up with. They justified each of the enhancements in their sentencing memo.

They argued the witness tampering enhancement was justified — even in spite of Randy Credico’s letter asking for leniency — because Credico still expressed fear that Stone’s associates might respond to his threats by attacking him, and because the threat itself triggers the enhancement.

Pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2J1.2(b)(1)(B), eight levels are added because the offense “involved causing or threatening to cause physical injury to a person, or property damage, in order to obstruct the administration of justice.” As detailed above, as part of Stone’s campaign to keep Credico silent, Stone told Credico in writing, “Prepare to die, cocksucker.” Stone also threatened (again in writing) to “take that dog away from you.” Stone may point to the letter submitted by Credico and argue that he did not have a serious plan to harm Credico or that Credico did not seriously believe that Stone would follow through on his threats. But Credico testified that Stone’s threats concerned him because he was worried that Stone’s words, if repeated in public, might make “other people get ideas.” Tr. 11/8/19, at 795.

In any event, it is the threat itself, not the likelihood of carrying out the threat, that triggers the enhancement. Endeavoring to tamper with a witness can involve a wide range of conduct. This enhancement recognizes that when the conduct involves threats of injury or property damage, rather than simple persuasion for example, the base offense level does not accurately capture the seriousness of the crime. To apply the enhancement, there is no “additional ‘seriousness’ requirement beyond the fact of a violent threat.” See United States v. Plumley, 207 F.3d 1086, 1089-1091 (8th Cir. 2000) (applying § 2J1.2(b)(1)(B) to a defendant who told coconspirators to “‘keep our mouth shut,’ because if anyone cooperated with the police he would ‘kick our ass’”); United States v. Bakhtairi, 714 F.3d 1057, 1061 (8th Cir. 2013) (holding there was no seriousness requirement and applying § 2J1.2(b)(1) to a defendant who wrote a menacing email, displayed a loaded rifle to a law partner, and doctored photographs of witnesses children to “add . . . crosshairs”); United States v. Smith, 387 F.3d 826, (9th Cir. 2004) (applying § 2J1.2(b)(1)(B) to a defendant who threatened to kill a witness and “kick [her] ass,” and noting that § 2J1.2(b)(1) does not contain a “seriousness requirement”).

Prosecutors argued the 3-level enhancement for substantial interference was justified because Stone’s obstruction led HPSCI not to call Jerome Corsi and not to subpoena Corsi and Credico for documents, both of which led to errors in the HPSCI report.

Pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2J1.2(b)(2), three levels are added because the offense resulted in substantial interference with the administration of justice. Because of Stone’s conduct, the House Intelligence Committee never received important documents, never heard from Credico (who pled the Fifth), and never heard from Corsi (who was never identified to the Committee as the real “back-channel” that Stone had referenced in August 2016). The Committee’s report even wrongly stated that there was no evidence contradicting Stone’s claim that all his information about WikiLeaks was from publicly available sources.

Prosecutors argued that the multi-year effort Stone engaged in merited the 2-level enhancement because of his obstruction’s extensive scope.

Pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2B1.2(b)(3)(C), two levels are added because the offense was otherwise extensive in scope, planning, or preparation. Stone engaged in a multi-year scheme involving (1) false statements in sworn testimony; (2) the concealment of important documentary evidence; (3) further lies in a written submission to Congress; and (4) a relentless and elaborate campaign to silence Credico that involved cajoling, flattering, crafting forged documents, badgering, and threatening Credico’s reputation, friend, life, and dog. Stone’s efforts were as extensive, if not more extensive, than those of other defendants who received this two-level enhancement at sentencing. See, e.g., United States v. Petruk, 836 F.3d 974 (8th Cir. 2016) (enlisting a friend to create a false alibi and scripting a false confession); United States v. Jensen, 248 Fed. Appx. 849 (10th Cir. 2007) (giving advance notice of testing and falsifying results of tests).

Finally, prosecutors argued for a 2-level enhancement for all the violations of ABJ’s orders during the trial, notably his implicit threat against her.

Finally, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1, two levels are added because the defendant “willfully obstructed or impeded, or attempted to obstruct or impede, the administration of justice with respect to the prosecution of the instant offense of conviction.” Shortly after the case was indicted, Stone posted an image of the presiding judge with a crosshair next to her head. In a hearing to address, among other things, Stone’s ongoing pretrial release, Stone gave sworn testimony about this matter that was not credible. Stone then repeatedly violated a more specific court order by posting messages on social media about matters related to the case.

This enhancement is warranted based on that conduct. See U.S.S.G. § 3C1.C Cmt. 4(F) (“providing materially false information to a magistrate or judge”); see, e.g., United States v. Lassequ, 806 F.3d 618, 625 (1st Cir. 2015) (“Providing false information to a judge in the course of a bail hearing can serve as a basis for the obstruction of justice enhancement.”); United States v. Jones, 911 F. Supp. 54 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (applying §3C1.1 enhancement to a defendant who submitted false information at hearing on modifying defendant’s conditions of release).

Prosecutors then showed how, under the guidelines, this adds up to an 87 to 108 month sentence.

Accordingly, Stone’s total offense level is 29 (14 + 8 + 3 + 2 + 2), and his Criminal History Category is I. His Guidelines Range is therefore 87-108 months.

Barr Recommendation: 30-46 months

In addition to violating DOJ policy of not deviating downwards from the Probation recommendation, the memo submitted under John Crabb Jr’s name (which his statements yesterday strongly indicate he did not write) offered little justification for why it was deviating from the Probation Office recommendation and never ultimately made a recommendation. But the memo suggested two of the enhancements — the 8-level enhancement for making a threat, and the 2-level enhancement for threatening ABJ — should not apply.

The memo suggested the 8-level enhancement shouldn’t apply, first, because doing so would double Stone’s exposure.

Notably, however, the Sentencing Guidelines enhancements in this case—while perhaps technically applicable— more than double the defendant’s total offense level and, as a result, disproportionately escalate the defendant’s sentencing exposure to an offense level of 29, which typically applies in cases involving violent offenses, such as armed robbery, not obstruction cases. Cf. U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(a)-(b). As explained below, removing these enhancements would have a significant effect on the defendant’s Guidelines range. For example, if the Court were not to apply the eight-level enhancement for threatening a witness with physical injury, it would result in the defendant receiving an advisory Guidelines range of 37 to 46 months, which as explained below is more in line with the typical sentences imposed in obstruction cases.

It pointed to Credico’s letter to justify ignoring it.

First, as noted above, the most serious sentencing enhancement in this case—the eightlevel enhancement under Section 2J1.2(b)(1)(B) for “threatening to cause physical injury”—has been disputed by the victim of that threat, Randy Credico, who asserts that he did not perceive a genuine threat from the defendant but rather stated that “I never in any way felt that Stone himself posed a direct physical threat to me or my dog.” (ECF No. 273). While Mr. Credico’s subjective beliefs are not dispositive as to this enhancement, the Court may consider them when assessing the impact of applying the enhancement – particularly given the significant impact that the enhancement has on the defendant’s total Guidelines range.

Then, Barr’s memo argued (and this is the truly outrageous argument) that Stone’s attempts to obstruct his own prosecution overlapped with his efforts to obstruct the HPSCI investigation.

Second, the two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice (§ 3C1.1) overlaps to a degree with the offense conduct in this case. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent the Second, the two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice (§ 3C1.1) overlaps to a degree with the offense conduct in this case. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent the

Effectively, this language treated threats against a judge as unworthy of enhancement.

Probably the only part of this memo that really affected ABJ’s sentence was a discussion of avoiding disparities in sentencing, where it mentions Scooter Libby’s 30 month sentence (and Manafort’s obstruction-related sentence, by ABJ, which was just one part of her 7.5 year sentence of him).

Third, the Court must “avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities.” See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(6). In its prior filing, the Government directed the Court’s attention to a non-exhaustive list of witness tampering, false statement, and obstruction of justice cases that resulted in sentences of thirty months (Libby), thirteen months (Manafort), six months (Lavelle), twelve months (Hansen), and thirty-five months (Solofa). While these cases involved lesser offense conduct, the sentences imposed constituted a fraction of the penalty suggested by the advisory Guidelines in this case.

In comments to Lindsey Graham, Bill Barr said he thought the guidelines should say 3.5-4.5 years, slightly more than the guidelines if the witness tampering were removed, but if you eliminate both the witness tampering and obstruction of proceedings enhancement the range would be 30-47 months.

ABJ Guidelines Calculation: 70-87 months

In court yesterday, ABJ started by going through the recommended sentence. Ultimately, she did the following with the guidelines (h/t Andrew Prokop for his great live tweeting):

  • Accepted the 8-level enhancement for witness tampering, but said she’d take Credico’s comments into account
  • Accepted the 3-level enhancement for substantial interference, noting that HPSCI was totally diverted by focusing on Credico
  • Rejected the 2-level enhancement for the extensive nature of Stone’s obstruction (thereby agreeing with the original Probation office recommendation)
  • Accepted the 2-level enhancement for Stone’s obstruction in this prosecution

That works out to a base level of 14 + 8 for the witness tampering threat + 3 for substantial interference + 2 for his obstruction in this prosecution. As ABJ calculated in court yesterday, that amounts to a guidelines offense level of 27, or a guidelines range of 70 to 87 months.

Importantly, these decisions mean ABJ disagreed with both the recommendations made in the Barr memo that she throw out the witness tampering threat and Stone’s interference in this trial (which included the threat against her).

Contrary to what the WaPo lets DOJ claim under cover of anonymity, this in no way vindicates Barr. Rather, it rebukes him, stating that neither of his interventions are valid.

ABJ Sentence: 40 months

Nevertheless, ABJ came up with a sentence of 40 months, a sentence that’s solidly in the range of what Barr wanted (and therefore a sentence he’s on the record as saying is just for Stone’s crimes).

ABJ got there, in part, by taking Credico’s comments into consideration, while still treating Stone’s threat as real. She got there in part by arguing that the sentencing guidelines are “inflated” — something anathema to Bill Barr’s policies at DOJ, and a stance that would say all defendants should be sentenced more leniently, not just Trump’s rat-fucker.

In her sentence, she explicitly said she was ignoring Trump’s comments and comments from the left asking for harsh punishment.

Ultimately, ABJ calculated the guidelines — which she said were inflated (and would be for all defendants) — at 70-87 months. She then sentenced Stone to 57% of the lower end of those guidelines.

And that is what has the frothy right in a tizzy — that she extended Roger Stone the same leniency that she would extend to other defendants, in defiance of Bill Barr’s demands that every defendant not covering up for the President be sentenced harshly.

This is in no way a vindication of Bill Barr. It is also, in no way, abusive.

Update: This has been updated to reflect what the transcript says about the final probation recommendation.

75 replies
  1. jaango says:

    “officially” Stone has now been designated a “criminal” and which adds more luster the Trumpian Era of Misfits. Subsequently, This Trumpian Era is making tomorrow’s historians, an easy effort for today’s entrenched journalists practicing their historian fancy.

  2. SteveL says:

    Moreover, Crabb explicitly conceded yesterday that the government still believed that both the 8-level (threats) and the 2-level 3C1.1 (obstruction of instant proceeding) enhancements applied, after the supplemental memo raised doubts about these — that is, Crabb himself repudiated fully half of the supplemental memo. Together with the judge’s dismissal of the age and health concerns raised by the supplemental memo there is no way to view this other than as a major embarrassment to the prosecution.

    And yes, it’s maddening that the papers think they serve their readers by allowing anonymous flunkies to get their spin into the news.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The memo suggested the 8-level enhancement shouldn’t apply, first, because doing so would double Stone’s exposure.

    That seems circular. Doubling the length of Stone’s sentence is not normally something that keeps DoJ prosecutors awake at night.

    That doubling is a consequence of something – here, Stone’s egregious behavior. The argument should be that that behavior was not egregious, it was typical marketing exaggeration of the kind that he (and Trump) has used for decades. That would negate the pernicious effects attributed to it.

    The problem I have is that there are many examples of Stone’s (and Trump’s) conduct that negate the claim. They have incited others to rid themselves of meddlesome priests. Were it bluff or exaggeration, Stone might not know what his patrons and followers might do if he (and therefore they) were threatened. I would have found Stone’s to be an entirely credible threat.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I imagine the defense bar is closely following your argument. A senior federal district judge just opined that the guidelines are inflated, which means that sentences for all their clients – those in prison and those not – should be significantly lower. Their clients look like Shirley Temple compared to a guy convicted of seven felonies, including making physical threats to a witness and a judge.

    As you say, that’s probably a correct view. It’s not the one Trump, Barr, and the frothy law ‘n order fundamentalists want to advance. They seem to prefer fire ‘n brimstone levels of punishment – to encourage conformity – and a nearly free labor pool that can’t vote.

  5. BobCon says:

    To a great extent the anger of the foamers is the usual ritualized stuff, probably with a bit of sexist overtones aimed at Jackson to generate the usual evidence-free feelings among the base about out of control liberal judges and the need for more Brett Kavanaughs.

    But I also suspect there is a more specific task they are trying to accomplish. Jackson’s long speech after the trial was a much harsher judgment than even a longer sentence would be, and the GOP was anxious to get that statement out of the press.

    The speed with which the unnamed DOJ people went to the friendly microphone at the Washington Post makes it clear that they wanted a narrative out there which pushed Jackson’s words away. They seem to have gotten what they wanted.

    The usual CYA routine of Beltway reporters is that they can’t say what is in plain sight about Trump and his cronies is that they don’t have a reliable source, or they don’t have a newsworthy source, or they only have allegations. Here, they have all of those things sealed by a verdict in a court of law, but they still won’t report in any detail about the merits of the case that were made bald by the long speech of a federal judge.

    The press simply won’t stop treating the hardest evidence of GOP degeneracy as anything but maleable sports talk radio fodder. The GOP sets up the alternate takes, and the DC press jumps to report them.

  6. klynn says:

    OT but related…
    After the firing of Maguire and Barr’s interference with Stone’s sentencing, I find myself revisiting the piece in the NYMag from 7/18 titled Prump Tutin. The Getty image “Crazy quilt of connections” is a bit alarming.

  7. Jenny says:

    Thank you Marcy.

    The line “Worse still, confusion about what happened yesterday has permitted the frothy right to attack ABJ for what was a lenient sentence” is spot on.

    Attack is the appropriate word for the frothy right. Attack followers for the Abuser in Chief, always looking for a fight.

  8. Peterr says:

    Nevertheless, ABJ came up with a sentence of 40 months, a sentence that’s solidly in the range of what Barr wanted (and therefore a sentence he’s on the record as saying is just for Stone’s crimes).

    ABJ got there, in part, by taking Credico’s comments into consideration, while still treating Stone’s threat as real. She got there in part by arguing that the sentencing guidelines are “inflated” — something anathema to Bill Barr’s policies at DOJ, and a stance that would say all defendants should be sentenced more leniently, not just Trump’s rat-fucker.

    Can you elaborate on how she got from A to B? What, exactly, was her argument against the guidelines?

    • bmaz says:

      Post Booker, the court owes no such specific explanation for departure, and Berman Jackson sure as hell does not owe one here beyond what is in the transcript. The sentence was fine.

      No criminal lawyers I know, most of which are all on the defense side, ever thought the guidelines rec by the PO would ever be followed. None. The public mob that wanted to hang Stone was laughable, and the outrage at his sentence is absurd. Jackson set a great record.

      • Peterr says:

        Even if you accept ABJs rejection of some of the PO’s recommendation, ABJ *still* went 43% below what she herself though the guidelines call for. Is this her regular practice in other cases?

        I’m not asking this as part of some public mob. The whole point of sentencing guidelines is to attempt to bring some consistency across the judiciary, to avoid the sentencing disparities between “hang-em-high” judges and “slap their wrists” judges. If that is correct, then every time a judge departs from the guidelines (especially as much as Marcy describes in the title to the post), that judge owes it to her/his judicial colleagues (and the entire community of lawyers who argue cases before her/him) to explain why.

        Otherwise, you may as well just get rid of the guidelines altogether.

      • Peterr says:

        I don’t have the transcript, and followed the sentencing hearing through various twitter feeds like Andrew Prokop that Marcy h/t’s above. Rereading that thread, what I find maddening is that it goes on a length in citing ABJ’s handling of the various enhancements and ABJ’s strong language about the gravity of Stone’s offenses, but merely drops in two passing references to why she departed downward (“ABJ says, she is concerned that 7-9 years is greater than necessary” and ABJ has to weigh various factors, including “the inflated nature of the guidelines” among other things.

        What am I to make of such passing references when they are contrasted with much stronger language with supporting examples about the criminal nature of Stone’s conduct?

        If you have the transcript, can you please share with us what exactly ABJ said about the guidelines?

      • dude says:

        Not a lawyer. Is it possible for the Judge in this situation to say, in effect, “look Prosecution, are you sure you want to recommend this sentence? Why don’t you go huddle and try again?”

  9. Tom says:

    Sorry to go OT but what has happened to Mike Pence? I admit I don’t follow the news in tremendous detail but he seems to have dropped out of sight altogether. Is there a plan to keep him in quarantine so as not to be spattered with the backsplash from the business of Barr, Trump, and the DOJ? Or from Trump’s attempts to muzzle the intelligence community? Or from the whole Roger Stone and the pardons business? Is there an expectation that he may have to step in at short notice to replace a President who is more than unleashed or unhinged but actually berserk?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Bernie would be a piker at helping Vlad compared to Trump. But he would never remotely entertain the idea. So, more disinformation.

      Trump and his patrons will have trucks full of shit, ready to dump on the target of the moment. Sad that so much of the MSM has given in to credulousness about what Trump says and does, instead of directing its informed cynicism at it. Bumpy ride ahead.

    • harpie says:

      The WaPo article is behind a paywall for me, but here are some tweets from the author with Sander’s responses:
      4:31 PM · Feb 21, 2020

      Sanders on Russia: “Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend. He is an autocratic thug…I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear: stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do”

      more Sanders, continuing to question how much of the “Bernie Bro” activity is real (though many are definitely real supporters of his):
      “Some of the ugly stuff on the internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.”

      Also this:
      5:09 PM · Feb 21, 2020

      Sanders tells reporters he learned about Russian interference in his campaign about a month ago. But asked why it came out now, Sanders points to the fact that the NV caucuses are a day away. And adds sarcastically, “Washington Post? Good friends.”

      • bmaz says:

        Harpie, remember most paywalls allow X number of articles per month for free (the WSJ is a sad outlier in this regard). So, if you clear you website data/cookies, you should always be able to see them.

    • Vicks says:

      I know I sound naive but isn’t it reasonable for a candidate to say that going forward that you can tell the difference between a Russian troll, a MAGA troll and one of my supporters by the way they sound?
      Times being what they are, isn’t it time for those, who in their hearts, have good intentions to give up trolling as a sport?
      What if it was as simple as “no one talks like that anymore, you must be a troll?” and just telling them to scram?
      Bernie can start by telling his bros that if people can’t tell the difference between them and a Russian pos it’s a problem. Suggest they do a bit of self reflection, and if they are really in it to support him, cut the shit and get on board for the right reasons.
      Anger has it’s place, nothing will ever change without it, but if Bernie or any of these candidate are real leaders it’s time they channel it and direct it appropriately, instead of allowing for anymore of the self indulgent bullshit that is tearing this country apart.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump’s rage at the CIA and ODNI over a routine briefing for the HPSCI is unremitting. What most seems to upset him is not Adam Schiff – the House’s lead impeachment manager. It’s not that his ODNI gave a briefing he wasn’t aware of. Trump doesn’t pay attention to his own briefings, much less care about others’, which go on with numbing regularity inside the Beltway.

    No, it’s that the US Government thinks it has any function other than to protect and subsidize Donald Trump, and to secure his re-election.

    I suspect Trump is also upset that Vlad might think he’s allowing his intel agencies to operate with too little interruption. When Vlad ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy in Trumpville.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      And so is Trump. There are already ads in markets where the GOP thinks they can take back a house seat, saying that all the Dems are ‘Socialists’.The GOP line is that Bernie is the easiest to mount a campaign against, because all they have to do is speak the boogeyman word “Socialism”.

      From this morning’s Poli8tico:
      ALEX ISENSTADT: “The GOP’s new 2020 strategy: Invoke President Sanders”: “Bernie Sanders hasn’t won the Democratic primary — but down-ballot Republicans are having a field day acting like he has.

      “Republicans up and down the ballot are already casting their Democratic rivals as socialist puppets who would remake the economy in Sanders’ collectivist vision. The play is straightforward: President Donald Trump has repelled college-educated suburban voters since he took office; Republicans want to win them back by arguing the alternative is worse.

      “Arizona Sen. Martha McSally launched a TV ad titled ‘Bernie Bro’ likening her Democratic opponent, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, to the Vermont senator. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis held a press conference last week linking his Democratic rivals to the Sanders-backed Green New Deal. In Michigan, a conservative group has aired a series of commercials that go after Democratic Sen. Gary Peters by invoking Sanders and his support for Medicare for All.” POLITICO

      • P J Evans says:

        I saw something the other day – don’t remember where – where they were talking about how “democratic socialists” think that government should own all the means of production. It wasn’t someplace where I could answer, fortunately, because I’d have flamed them for sheer ignorance.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Hilarious, given how McSally herself is on the ropes and unlikely to retain her public employment.

        The GOP hasn’t a clue what democratic socialism is, but they’re happy to portray it as every epithet the party has used against the left since Joe McCarthy. They will paint this as an existential war for the existence of humanity – to protect the most callous, ruthless,and extreme version of capitalism in the world, and to protect a president who admits to being in league with Russia.

  11. JMP says:

    Seems to me the main attack angle is to try and destroy confidence in judiciary process. E.g. rumors that the jury lead person was not properly vetted and did not qualify as a juror (residency conditions) is a good example. If the rat-fucker and friends managed to nfiltrate from the start this jury, it is a master act.
    Trump does not have to intervene, if this allagation is proven, Barr can intervene and get a new trial. If not, the doubts about justice is just good enough. I do not believe a crazy Never-Trump could consider such a scheme. Could be the Russian’s trick, could be Roger being Roger again. In any case, trust in the judicial will be vastly damaged. When our dear Donald will claim he has lost élections because of “millions” of fraudsters and refuse to go, who will trust the courts ?

  12. Philip Webster says:

    may be OT: the bogeyman “socialism” = communism is how they frame their attacks. Interesting article from “Bloomberg” (oops) about money, of course, but it helps cast socialism in a positive light (I think).

    The Podcast helps illuminate it.

    The older economists are having some trouble with it; kind of like Plate Theory upset older geologists in the 50s, a paradigm change.

  13. harpie says:
    10:31 PM · Feb 21, 2020

    JUST IN: Roger Stone is moving to force Judge Amy Berman Jackson to recuse herself because she praised the jurors for serving with “integrity.”

    Stone says she can’t rule fairly on his motion for a new trial (based on juror bias) because of this. […]

    From the linked Politico article:

    […] Jackson delivered her sentence Thursday but delayed it until after she considers Stone’s motion for a new trial. Though the motion was filed under seal, Stone’s team indicated that it will focus on a juror.

    “Stone’s Motion for New Trial is directly related to the integrity of a juror. It is alleged that a juror misled the Court regarding her ability to be unbiased and fair and the juror attempted to cover up evidence that would directly contradict her false claims of impartiality,” his lawyers argued.

    The premature statement blessing the “integrity of the jury” undermines the appearance of impartiality and presents a strong bias for recusal,” they added […]

    Also from the article, [which I guess might be the whole point of the exercise]:

    Stone’s latest motion appears to be a last-ditch, longshot bid to forestall his imminent prison sentence. But it will also likely reach the receptive ears of the president, who has repeatedly amplified criticism of Jackson and repeated false claims about the nature of the charges against Stone. […]

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Stone’s argument is a deliberate garble of Judge Berman Jackson’s statement claiming that “the jurors who served with integrity cared [about Stone’s abuse of the truth].”

        Judge Berman-Jackson’s praise does not extend to any juror who may not have served with integrity and is, therefore, not prejudicial to Stone’s motion for a new trial.

        The frothy right excels at the deliberate, intentional, purposeful garbling of pretty much anything and everything.

        • harpie says:

          Yup. And Roger Stone is one of the best.

          Here’s a thread by Andrew Fleischman.
          He starts with a Mike Cernovitch tweet which is a “deliberate, intentional and purposeful” LIE about what the prospective juror said during the jury selection process:

          3:01 PM · Feb 13, 2020

          In this snippet, which for some reason does not include a link to the primary source, she never denies knowing who Roger Stone is.

          That’s the difference between Cernovich and a journalist. […] [Goes through jury selection transcript]

          Truly, I almost never think a defamation suit is called for. But Cernovich, a trained lawyer, snipped out the part of the transcript that would clear this juror and accused her of a crime, and now she’s going to spend the next few years checking over her shoulder. […]

        • OldTulsaDude says:

          After years of hearing and watching the right rail first against this and then against that it occurs to me that their entire playbook consists of only a single play run from different formations and with different quarterbacks: create and then announce a faux crisis, repeat the faux crisis claims over and over, and then promote Republicans as the only ones who have the courage to address the crisis.

        • Tom says:

          The Democrats have an opportunity to turn the tables on the GOP using this tactic, except they have the advantage of a real and present danger to hammer Trump and his followers with, that is, Russian sabotage of the 2020 election. The Democratic candidates should remind the voters of what Russia is doing to undermine their democratic system and they should condemn Putin at every opportunity. The Democratic candidates should also present themselves as representing the real “America First” party, as they’re the ones speaking up in defense of American freedom and independence while President Trump is getting rid of the very intelligence people with the knowledge and expertise to help keep the country safe. The Democratic party should brand Trump as the Appeasement President and have facsimile GOP campaign posters–t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, pens, etc.– printed and distributed showing Putin, not Pence, as Trump’s running mate. You only have to change four letters to get Putin from Pence.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The support for a finding of “strong bias” is nonexistent. Contra defense counsel’s claim, ABJ is not congratulating jurors for their prejudice against Stone or for rigging their result. She is thanking them as a group for having worked hard to parse multiple felony counts during a long trial.

      Moreover, ABJ’s comment is broader. She is dismissing defense counsel’s bored, “Who cares?” about Stone’s seven felonies – a comment that echoes Trump. She concludes that Congress, the DoJ’s USA for the DC district, the jurors, the American people, and the courts care very much.

      They are very concerned about attempts “to frustrate congressional investigators as they sought to understand Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, a grave national security challenge.” That concern is heightened when you consider that the American IC has concluded that Russia is doing it again in 2020.

      The tweet also differs from the more measured Politico article. Stone is not “forcing” anything. His lawyer is making an argument, an unpersuasive one not supported by the facts. It appears designed to solely to appeal to Trump’s ignorant prejudice.

    • harpie says:
      ABJ swats away Stone’s motion for her recusal. [link]

      From the order:

      […] At bottom, given the absence of any factual or legal support for the motion for disqualification, the pleading appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use the Court’s docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words “judge” and “biased” in it.
      For these reasons, defendant’s motion is hereby DENIED.


  14. orionATL says:

    Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) 2/20/20, 12:38 PM

    Stone gets three years.

    I’m telling you all, if you ever get caught out there, BEG to be tried as a white man.

    *** with a president of the u.s. as a bff and co-conspirator.

  15. Vicks says:

    I sat down for five min to check on the world, and first thing I come across is Trump’s Security Advisor saying “I’ve seen no intel of Moscow helping Trump”.
    WTF is going on?
    My first instinct was the dude’s lying, but I can’t help but think what if he’s not?
    This is total chaos thinking, but in the real world any day I would pick democrats making shit up over the President of the United States being so self serving and in so deep with a enemy of our country that he has people in his administration willing to cover for such obscene violations of our national security.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump’s a liar. He’s wholly opportunistic, he says what he thinks is most to his benefit at the moment he says it. In that equation, truth can only get in the way.

      Trump’s version of hiring the best is to hire liars who are also obsequious shits, like Ric Grenell. QED.

      • Vicks says:

        Ya but…
        The story O’Brien is telling goes along with the one that says that Dems are lying and there were no intelligence about Russia meddling to help Trump included in the briefing that is making all the news.
        Of course it’s odd to claim Dems are lying; i haven’t seen an interview of any Dem at the briefing willing to discuss classified security issues…
        Last week Pence’s guy (last name Short, can’t remember his first) had a version of Barr’s interference with Stones sentencing that included 4 prosecutors presenting their guidelines to Barr and saying they would quit if he didn’t approve them.
        Again, in a normal world, if given a choice between that version of events and the freaking diabolical alternative I’m sure I’m not the only one that would choose version one.
        These people aren’t known liars like Fox’s prime time “talent” or the some rabble rouser with a radio show, these are high level people in the administration looking into the camera’s and lying to the American public.
        This feels different.

  16. harpie says:

    At the NSC:
    1] Under O’Brien, N.S.C. Carries Out Trump’s Policy, but Doesn’t Develop It
    Published Feb. 21, 2020 Updated Feb. 22, 2020, 9:49 a.m.

    When President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, convenes meetings with top National Security Council officials at the White House, he sometimes opens by distributing printouts of Mr. Trump’s latest tweets on the subject at hand.
    The gesture amounts to an implicit challenge for those present. Their job is to find ways of justifying, enacting or explaining Mr. Trump’s policy, not to advise the president on what it should be. […]

    2] [WaPo]
    3:45 PM · Feb 22, 2020

    National security adviser Robert O’Brien tells ABC in interview to air tomorrow that he hasn’t seen any evidence of Russia seeking to help Trump. Asked whether Russia might be helping Sanders, he says reports could be credible. “That’s no surprise. He honeymooned in Moscow.”

    8:22 PM · Feb 22, 2020

    Source present at DNI briefing with House Intel Cmte says Nat Sec Adv O’Brien’s comments to ABC that he hasn’t seen Intel about Russia helping Trump do not accurately reflect what this person heard. Acc to source what O’Brien said “conflicts” with what Intel members were told.

    • harpie says:

      About the Russia’s-helping-Sanders story:
      5:17 PM · Feb 21, 2020

      Two things:
      1) Is it significant that it was intel community that briefed Congress about interference to help Trump, but only “US officials” who briefed Sanders about interference to help him? Are administration people trying to undermine intel briefing?

      2) Does this mean Russians think Bernie is the Democratic candidate Trump can most easily beat and therefore want to boost him to knock out other Dems?

      • P J Evans says:

        (1) Maybe; if it’s not intel people doing it, Bernie should worry.
        (2) Or they think he’s the most likely nominee, therefore they start working on him now.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        harpie cited Kim Zetter asking:

        2) Does this mean Russians think Bernie is the Democratic candidate Trump can most easily beat and therefore want to boost him to knock out other Dems?

        [end excerpt]

        The only way Bernie Sanders loses the general election to Trump is if the center-left Democrats fail to support Bernie Sanders.

        Also, if the center-left Democrats exploit the Superdelegates to deprive Bernie Sanders of the Democratic nomination for president, then . . . [yikes] . . . There will be no more Democratic party in the United States after that.

        The center is dead. And the Republicans killed it.

        • P J Evans says:

          The superdelegates only get to vote if no one gets a majority (not a plurality) on the first ballot. The superdelegates aren’t the majority, and it’s Bernie’s “fans” who say they won’t vote for anyone else in November.

        • Mitch Neher says:

          Excellent news. I’m glad to hear that all Democrats are going to support Bernie Sanders for president.

          Because that’s the only way that Democrats can defeat Trump at the polls on election day in 2020.

          Not voting for Sanders will be effectively the same as voting for Trump.

          The election choice will be exactly binary.

  17. P J Evans says:

    Why do I think O’Brien is being paid very well to ignore all the evidence about what Russia is doing?

  18. harpie says:

    Sonia Sotomayor raises the ALARM at the Supreme Court:

    Sonia Sotomayor Just Accused the Supreme Court’s Conservatives of Bias Toward the Trump Administration
    MARK JOSEPH STERN FEB 21, 202010:54

    On Friday evening, by a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration’s wealth test for immigrants to take effect in Illinois. All four liberal justices dissented from the order, which changes relatively little: Thanks to the conservative justices’ intervention in January, the wealth test was poised to take effect in 49 states, and Friday’s vote lets the government apply it in the last state left.

    What’s most remarkable about the decision is Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s withering dissent, which calls out—with startling candor—a distressing pattern: The court’s Republican appointees have a clear bias toward the Trump administration. […]

    From Sotomayor’s dissent:

    “Today’s decision follows a now-familiar pattern. The Government seeks emergency relief from this Court, asking it to grant a stay where two lower courts have not. The Government insists—even though review in a court of appeals is imminent—that it will suffer irreparable harm if this Court does not grant a stay. And the Court yields.” […]

    …and the Court yields.

    Our institutions are being decimated and buried in broad daylight!

    • harpie says:


      Trump was not told coronavirus-infected Americans would be flown home from cruise ship
      Feb. 21, 2020 at 9:46 p.m.

      […] Arrangements had been made in case passengers developed symptoms on the plane ride home, so officials in Washington from the State Department and a top administration health official overruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based on information from operators on the ground in Tokyo. They decided to bring the infected passengers back home on the same planes but place them in an isolation area. […]
      6:59 PM · Feb 21, 2020

      This is what happens when you have political toadies making the decisions, rather than a coordinated process. 1/
      The CDC should have been the final arbiter of whether the 14 infected with coronavirus should have flown with others.
      There should have been a coordinator in the White House weighing the opinions of the various organizations. 2
      The decisions should not have gone back and forth at this rapid rate. There should have been a decision before people were removed from the cruise ship. […]

      But Trump has no idea how to run an organization. 3/3

      • Vicks says:

        It seems someone is being intentionally deceptive.
        Keeping in mind how important is to Trump to weigh in on anything making news, it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t a deliberate decision to keep this informational from him.
        Or Trump knew and is lying so he can keep feeding the rage.

    • P J Evans says:

      I saw a short clip of him in goal. Apparently both of their regular goalies were injured, and he was the only one who could do it.

      • Vicks says:

        Yeah the NHL requires there to be an emergency goaltender in the stands at every game that is available to play for either team if both goaltenders dressed for the game go down.
        There have only been only a handful of times these guys have even dressed for the bench spot and I think this is only the second or third time in history an emergency goalie has actually gotten any ice time.
        A couple of years ago Chicago had some white collar beer league guy that became an instant hero after he stepped in and stop some shots during the playoffs.
        The closest brush with fame one of our NHL team’s emergency goalie got, was after the game where he Blackhawk’s situation taught fans this rule, one of the goalies I’ve seen a number of times at drop-in games at my local rink was introduced as the evening’s emergency man and pictured up on the Jumbotron waving and drinking a soda.
        In very average seats btw,
        I had no clue but when I talked to him later he says he gets two tickets and goes to about a dozen games a year this way.


        • P J Evans says:

          I read that he stopped 8 of 10 shots on goal. And the grin he had after the game, when he was being interviewed – he looked like he’d had the time of his life.

        • orionATL says:

          great stories for walter mitty’s to set their fantasies by 😁.

          sports writing that grabs is always about overcoming adversity.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    O’Brien’s comments about Sanders are as reliable as any by Grenell. Congenital liars and toadies both of them. I see that O’Brien also couched his comment in terms of what he “had seen,” which gives him a big out. “I haven’t seen evidence of…, but I believe it,” is another typical propaganda shiv for Trump.

  20. P J Evans says:

    I see from Twitter that judge Jackson has tossed the motion from Stone’s lawyers to disqualify herself.

  21. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of Lord Donald;
    He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
    He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
    His truthiness is marching on….
    Glory hallelujah…his truthiness is marching on.

    That’s from the hymnal of Barbara Ledeen, wife of Michael, and Ginni Thomas, wife of Clarence. They are obsessed with remaking the federal bureaucracy. No Greybeard political appointee, no babe of an intern, safe in a basket lodged in the bulrushes, will escape their terrible swift sword.

    The Church of the Lord Our Donald must be cleansed. Those not loyal to His Greatness will have their bones ground to make His bread. Those born again into His Church will serve in their stead. Glory to Donald in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward Him.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Thomas and Ledeen are ultra-conservative zealots, influential and well-connected, including at the White House. One is married to a Supreme Court Justice, the other to a Republican operator with a reputation for having had a hand in forty years of the GOP’s dirtiest tricks.

      Thomas and Ledeen might see themselves as Jesuitical soldiers fighting for their god-king. I see them as stand-ins for Macbeth’s trio of advisers. They have digital Rolodexes instead of a bubbling cauldron, but their brew remains a hell-broth full of powerful trouble.

      Their purge and replace throughout the federal bureaucracy – coupled with Trump’s attempts to remove longstanding union and civil service protections – would institutionalize the chaos Trump carries with him like a plague.

      Their patrons are as anxious for them to succeed as they were for McConnell to pack the judiciary with his FedSoc horrors.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Dick Cheney’s authoritarian mantra was that Personnel is Policy. He was right. That’s why the law protects civil servants and distinguishes them from political appointees. It allows the routine work of government to carry on, regardless of which party is temporarily in power.

      Trump, his patrons, and their courtiers – like Ledeen and Thomas – have other plans for that bureaucracy. They would gut it, because they are creating a one -party state. They know by heart Shakespeare’s advice: to cement a rebellion in the modern state, one needs to topple its bureaucracy – “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

      It fits with their using foreign influence to “win” elections. If a sinking party can’t win them, it must make them unnecessary. Competent neutral bureaucrats – thousands of Hills and Vindmans and Yovanovitches – obstruct that goal. They are heretical and corrupt the faith. Thomas and Ledeen would silence them and replace them with true believers in the rebellion.

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