February 11, 2020

Roger Stone Brouhaha Is a Warning Signal to Giuliani Prosecutors
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Justice Department’s decision to seek lighter penalties for President Donald Trump’s associates Roger Stone and Michael Flynn could put a chill on investigations into others in the president’s circle, like Rudy Giuliani, according to former prosecutors.Until now, Stone, Paul Manafort, who’s serving a 7 1/2-year prison sentence for a variety of crimes including bank fraud, and Flynn, the former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents, appear to have been hoping for a pardon from the president.But someone at the Justice Department reversed the recommendations of the line prosecutors in the Flynn and Stone cases. Prosecutors told a judge on Monday that according to federal sentencing guidelines Stone deserved to spend seven to nine years in prison.After Trump criticized the recommendation on Twitter as “horrible” and “very unfair,” the DOJ came back Tuesday saying Stone should to go to jail but for far less time. A Justice Department official said that decision was made before the president tweeted.All four prosecutors who wrote the initial memo withdrew from the case, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis saying he quit the Justice Department.That message from up high likely won’t go unnoticed by other prosecutors examining activities of Trump confidantes, including his personal lawyer Giuliani and former Blackwater chief executive Erik Prince, according to several legal experts.“What we’re seeing is the Justice Department allowing itself to be used to protect the president’s allies,” said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor. “If you apply that to the Rudy Giuliani case, it does not bode well for the independence of the investigation. If I was a line-level prosecutor working on that case, I’d be seriously concerned that I would be overruled and undermined by the forces within the DOJ.”Giuliani was being investigated in November by federal prosecutors in New York for possible campaign finance violations and a failure to register as a foreign agent, according to three U.S. officials. There have been no public developments in the investigation since.The Justice Department is close to deciding whether to charge Prince in an investigation into whether he lied to Congress in the Russia probe and violated U.S. export laws in his business dealings, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Prince is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and an ally of Trump.Giuliani Faces U.S. Probe on Campaign Finance, Lobbying Breaches“The message has been sent,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a former federal prosecutor now teaching at New York Law School. “The message has been very, very clear for a long time about how the president wants things handled, and that itself is concerning. When you have active interference like this it makes prosecutors think twice about being aggressive or crossing him in any way.”Trump said on Tuesday he didn’t speak to the Justice Department about the Stone case, although he said prosecutors should be ashamed for what they’ve done to his friend of more than 30 years, as well as Flynn and others.“The president is not supposed to be involved in investigations and cannot direct the Department of Justice to investigate anyone,” said former federal prosecutor Anne Milgram. “The whole idea of keeping politics and law enforcement apart is to maintain the rule of law so that every citizen believes they’ll be judged fairly based on the evidence and the law.”Stone is to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington on Feb. 20. Judges have leeway in deciding on a sentence and aren’t compelled to adhere to Justice Department recommendations. Trump also commented about the judge on Twitter Tuesday.After prosecutors had recommended a sentence of as long as six months for Flynn, they softened their position last month and suggested probation would be “appropriate.” Flynn was due to be sentenced Feb. 27 but that was canceled by the judge after Flynn had asked to withdraw his guilty plea.The latest steps show just how much has changed in the past year, since special counsel Robert Mueller’s team completed its work on the Russia probe and the Senate voted to acquit the president over his attempt to exert pressure on Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.To that end, Attorney General William Barr said this week that the department would send any information from Giuliani about Biden and Ukraine to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh for vetting.“This is unbelieveable stuff,” said Ryan Fayhee, a former federal prosecutor now at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, of the Stone sentencing retreat. “I’ve lived through hiring scandals and political litmus tests, but a direct intervention in an individual case is different. We’re entering a new era, and it will take a very long time to undo this.”\--With assistance from Christian Berthelsen and Chris Strohm.To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Farrell in New York at gregfarrell@bloomberg.net;David Voreacos in New York at dvoreacos@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, ;Jeffrey D Grocott at jgrocott2@bloomberg.net, Joe SchneiderFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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