Judge Berman Jackson strikes back at the wrecking ball president

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Roger Stone, a former adviser to President Trump, was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional investigation

Posted: Feb 21, 2020 7:20 AM
Updated: Feb 21, 2020 7:20 AM

The crowd gathered for Roger Stone's sentencing Thursday heard more than a judge's decision that he should go to prison for obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering. It also heard the sound of the judiciary, and one might say reality itself, striking back at a wrecking-ball president who has tried to damage public trust in the courts -- while exerting his own power in extraordinary ways.

Although Judge Amy Berman Jackson was addressing Stone's deceptions in the Robert Mueller investigation when she said, "The truth still exists. The truth still matters," her statement should also be considered a commentary on the era of lies and distortions ushered in by President Trump.

Just as Stone recklessly toyed with the justice system, his longtime friend, Trump, has used distortion and lies to undermine institutions ranging from Congress, to the press, to the courts.

Just last week, Trump took to social media to comment on the Stone case. Expressing both the authority of the presidency and the maturity of a 5-year-old, he said, "This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!" You could almost hear the sound of stamping feet.

The "other side" presumably refers to Democrats, but the fact is that the congressional committee that raised concerns about Stone lying in testimony was controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans at the time. Likewise, no one forced Stone to commit witness tampering or obstruction of justice. He did these crimes all on his own, and then used Trump-like tropes to try to put the system on trial.

Stone showed his contempt for the court when he posted a photo online of the judge next to an image of what appear to be crosshairs. Though he denied that he was making a threat, there was no denying that he viewed the justice system with disdain and wanted the world to know it. For proof, just consider the caption alleging deep state trickery that accompanied Stone's post, which he linked to the hashtag "#fixisin".

Paul Manafort is, of course, the former Trump campaign chairman who is already serving his prison sentence on crimes which, like Stone's, were related to Mueller's investigation. In that case, too, the President had much to say about how his buddy was being treated poorly and his enemies were somehow getting off unfairly. On Twitter, he wrote, "What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all the others? Very unfair!"

Before Manafort and Stone, Trump felt the justice system was abusing Michael Cohen, the President's self-described "fixer." At the time FBI raided his offices, Cohen was still in Trump's good graces. This prompted the President to declare the raid "a whole new level of unfairness." When Cohen decided to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators, Trump abandoned him. However, the President's involvement early in the Cohen case offers more support for the idea that, in Trump's view, when the judicial system goes against members of his crew, the system is alarmingly unfair.

When Trump plays his unfairness card, he often throws it down on a pile of gobbledygook that is disconnected from the case at hand. For example, though former FBI Director James Comey and Trump's 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with Roger Stone, they are familiar figures in the fantasy world Trump creates online and in public statements.

When he invokes their names, as he did in the case of Manafort, his most rabid followers understand that he's talking about representatives of the evil elite, otherwise known as "the swamp" or the "deep state."

The deep state, which Stone mentioned in his rant about Jackson, is the imaginary cabal that conspiracy theorists blame for interfering with the President's agenda and protecting his enemies. The idea is, to quote the late Charles Krauthammer, "rubbish," but it nevertheless maintains a hold on those who find it useful when making an argument or lodging a complaint.

Trump used the term deep state when he explained why he intervened in the case of a Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was demoted for posing with the body of a dead ISIS prisoner. In that case, after the officer's defenders campaigned for Trump to intervene, Trump overruled the Pentagon and reinstated the officer's rank. The President's intervention in the Navy SEAL's case, which came after he got lots of publicity on the President's favorite news channel -- Fox News -- demonstrated that with the right advocacy, anyone might escape the military's -- or judicial system's -- final verdict.

And though Trump has not said definitively that he will pardon Stone, he has certainly inserted himself into Stone's case more than once.

In doing so, he has contributed to a crisis at the Department of Justice, where all four prosecutors in his case, who initially recommended a harsh sentence, withdrew from the case after Attorney General William Barr intervened and advocated for a more lenient sentence. Barr, who criticized the President for commenting on the Stone case, is still viewed by many as a Trump lackey.

Nonetheless, on Thursday, Berman Jackson demonstrated genuine fairness in meting out a more lenient sentence of 40 months. Now it will be up to the President to either honor the decision or commute the sentence of his friend and show that it is he -- and not the system -- that is corrupt.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115763

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
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