Even before Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced longtime Republican operative Roger Stone to more than three years in prison, she had drawn the ire of President Donald Trump and his allies, who have accused her and a jury member of political bias.
So, on Thursday, as she ticked through the counts on which Stone was found guilty, including lying to Congress and witness tampering, she made the unusual move to push back strongly against those accusations.
She spent almost an hour repeatedly invoking the independence of the judiciary and making it clear that Stone was prosecuted for his crimes -- not his politics.
Her impassioned defense of the American judicial system sought to combat – and underscored – a growing concern that the president’s conduct and comments threaten its independence. It followed concerns raised by Attorney General William Barr, who has said Trump's tweets were making it “impossible" to do his job.
Here are extended excerpts of Jackson’s comments:
“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 center of one of the most significant issues of the day.”
“And as you've just heard when I went through the elements of the offense, he was not convicted and is not being sentenced for exercising his First Amendment rights, his support of the president's campaign or his policies. He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the President. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
“This effort to obstruct the investigation was deliberate, planned, not one isolated incident, and conducted over a considerable period of time. And Stone lied and sought to impede production of information to whom? Not to some secret anti-Trump cabal, but to Congress. To the elected representatives of both parties who were confronted with a matter of grave national importance.”
“.... it was largely Stone's own emails and his own texts that proved the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. So what did the defense say to the jury on his behalf? ‘So what?’ So what?
Of all the circumstances in this case, that may be the most pernicious. The truth still exists. The truth still matters. Roger Stone's insistence that it doesn't, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy.
And if it goes unpunished, it will not be a victory for one party or another. Everyone loses because everyone depends on the representatives they elect to make the right decisions on a myriad of issues -- many of which are politically charged but many of which aren't -- based on the facts.
Everyone depends on our elected representatives to protect our elections from foreign interference based on the facts. No one knows where the threat is going to come from next time or whose side they're going to be on, and for that reason the dismay and disgust at the defendant's belligerence should transcend party.
The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party. The dismay and the disgust with any attempts to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party.
Sure, the defense is free to say: So what? Who cares? But, I'll say this: Congress cared. The United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia that prosecuted the case and is still prosecuting the case cared. The jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared. The American people cared. And I care.”
“The problem is that nothing about this case was a joke; it wasn't funny, it wasn't a stunt, and it wasn't a prank. Stone's conduct displayed flagrant disrespect for the institution of government established by the Constitution, including Congress and this Court. And I'll venture to say that even many adolescents know the difference.”