Is Trump abusing his power over the judiciary?
This is news in focus where we offer our insights into the stories that matter before we go any further. I want to address today. Sentencing of a man Roger Stone Roger Stone. He's become the sentencing of Roger Stone. A LONGTIME CONFIDANTE DONALD TRUMP for lying to Congress obstruction and witness tampering was mired in controversy. Over how the. Us Justice Department handled the case under public pressure from the president. Mr Stone received a forty month sentence whereas prosecutors had recommended that he serve up to nine years. This followed seven cases of presidential clemency for White Collar criminals whose convictions included extortion fraud and lying to White House officials. Yes we have commuted. The sentence of Rod Blagojevich. He served eight years in jail We have Birdie character we have Mike Milkin. Who's gone around and done an incredible job? Offer is the independence of America's judiciary under threat. Or as Mr Trump simply using the powers a lot to him on the line with me to discuss this is ed loose. Us National Editor and columnist and Cottam Schober US legal and enforcement correspondent. I let's hear a clip from president trump taken. Just a couple of days before stone sentencing. Just so you understand. I chose not to be involved. I'm allowed to be totally involved. I'm actually I guess the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the country but I've chosen not to be involved but he is a man of great integrity. But I would be. I could be involved if I wanted to be man of integrity he is referring to is the US Attorney General William Bar but is this credible given the tweets he published before the sentencing of Roger. Stone got tell us first about the case of Roger Stone which you've covered for the F. T. Who was he exactly? What was his crime? And was the sentence particularly lenient for this kind of case. Roger Stone is a flamboyant veteran political operative in the US. His career goes all the way back to working on Richard Nixon's election campaign and he has basically been the person you call as a Republican presidential candidate. When you want to get your hands dirty. He called himself a dirty trickster and he is an expert in this sort of Makir side politics in the two thousand sixteen election. He was a sort of informal adviser to Donald Trump. And one of the things he was trying to do was make contact with wikileaks. When it became known that wikileaks had a trove of hacked emails from the Democrats to use it for political gain. The thing that he was convicted of is in two thousand seventeen when Congress began investigating. What exactly went on to twenty sixteen election? The House Intelligence Committee called on Mr Stone and asked him about some of the comments he had made during the campaign and Mr Stone lied to. Congress about who is intermediary was or who he was referring to when he was talking about having an intermediary allied when. He said that he didn't have any documents or any written materials or any taxed of his conversations with that intermediary. The sentence he eventually received was actually probably pretty in line with what other sort of white collar criminals convicted of lying to. Congress or the government have received the key issue in his case was he had threatened a longtime friend of his who was also another witness. Basically saying don't contradict my story and those thrashed included threatening his dog for example the key issue at stake was whether he was serious about that and whether therefore has sent should be jacked up significantly because he had made violent threats and eventually the judge took the view that although it was serious that he'd made violent threats. The person that he had threatened didn't actually feel like they were going to experience violence. Ed Tell us a bit more about Mr Stone. And the history of his friendship with the President and whether you think Mr Trump's tweets constituted interference in the judicial process. Yeah as I said. He's a flamboyant dirty tricks. Who GOES WAY BACK TO LATE? Six hundred seventy trump maximum in the late seventies. He was introduced to try but he quickly hit it off. They shed philosophy of you know playing to win that no method is invalid. Never apologize never explain. Stone set up with couple of other people are very well known lobby group in Washington. One of his clients was trump who was seeking tax breaks a casino. He was setting up in Atlantic City. And really they've been great friends since then so the ties between trump and stone go along way that very deep and they're often allegedly nefarious in terms of the League outlook from this. I have no doubt that trump will seek to podcastone fast opportunity. Trump's on the Guy Senate acquittal spring cleaning of his administration ruthlessly seeking out anybody who isn't very very loyal so to get rid of weather that Meghan appointees the civil savage. Anybody perceive does slightly disloyal. Not Enough is being pledged. Loyalty is a hugely important hugely. Important thing to trump and stern has shown loyalty he has not. He is not divulged things that have damaged the president. He's showing toughness. He's been very Trumpian in how he's dealt with. Franchi's accused the judge me by of being a biased judge which she's rejected this very trumpian and I have no doubt that it will culminate in at some point. President trump pardoning Roger Stern question about what trump actually did part of the reason. Roger Stone was so controversial. Was that line prosecutors involved in this case we're uncomfortable with what Mr Trump and the justice department we're doing. Can you explain that to viewers and why it was such a problem so there are four prosecutors who secured Mrs Jones conviction trial so the trial team? They filed their sentencing recommendation which was seven to nine years which there's no bones about it. That's a serious sentence for anybody to serve and then that evening all of a sudden early hours of the morning so after midnight trump tweets calling it a miscarriage of justice. He says this is unacceptable and Lo and behold the very next day the DOJ which is the US Department of Justice DOJ officials. Start saying that they agree that the sense would be unwarranted and adair kind of reverse it. The following day afternoon we see all four the prosecutors quit the case including one of them actually quits his job at the DOJ entirely and subsequently a new sentencing recommendation is put forward. Which says we'RE NOT GONNA ask for a particular sentence but it ought to be far less than seven to nine years. The idea that four prosecutors would quit a case. All at once is astonishing and it was a very serious and important moment and DOJ his trip shook the DOJ. It was a very dramatic moment in Washington and the question then was was doj senior leadership. William bar the. Us Attorney General. Was He reacting to an order from trump or was something else going on now the lion that DOJ has stuck to is that there was a miscommunication between the US Attorney's office in Washington DC and between main justice headquarters also in DC? But they're separate offices. Basically Mr. Barr says he was not expecting to see a seventy nine year recommendation. The new prosecutor brought on sat at the sentencing that the prosecutors who filed a recommendation that you good faith and thought that they had been given approval to do so and so Mr Bar said listen. This is not about trump. This is about. I think that that sentence was appropriate and I was not told about what was going on. The important thing here is whether or not Mr trump explicitly ordered the attorney general chains recommendation. It's still gets to this question about how our friends of the president being treated in their cases now it's pretty common across the US for federal prosecutors to request tough even harsh sentences. That's not unknown. You don't often see the attorney general weighing in to ask for lighter sentences and certainly DOJ policy at the moment is to prosecute people to the fullest extent of the law to secure the longer sentences possible so whether or not Mr Trump's tweets were an express order to Mr Bar that he followed a whether he was acting independently. It still gets to this question about if your friend of the president. How are you going to be treated by this? Doj while we're on the subject of Friends of the president. The other thing that happened last week was a series of presidential pardons for White Collar criminals specifically several that have connections to Mr Trump. I talk about Michael Milkin. What did he do and why does it matter that he was pardoned? Michael Milkin is to people on Wall Street a hero. He effectively invented the junk bond or high yield bond market in the eighties and then he was brought low by prosecutors and the SEC and eventually guilty to securities fraud and nine hundred ninety. He served about twenty two months in prison after being initially sentenced to ten years. Ever since then he's been rebuilding his reputation. He's a philanthropist. Now has the Milken Institute and for a long time people on Wall Street rich and powerful people have felt that he was prosecuted unjustly and deserved a pardon. The other person. Mr Trump pardon rod blagojevich is perhaps less of a popular figure in any area. He was the former Democratic governor of Illinois and was prosecuted for trying to extort a children's Hospital for campaign contributions and also trying to sell the vacated Senate seat of Barack Obama when he became president his case involves some quite lurid wiretap quotes. Where he talked about Mr Obama's Tennessee. Being a very valuable thing with various explosives and that he wasn't going to give it away for nothing. The fact that these pardons came just a day or two before Roger. Stone's sentencing is pretty mistake -able signal of Mr Trump's power to grant clemency. Whatever case that he wants so prosecutors can go after his fans and associates. Jerry can commit crimes. Judge can sentence them to however long they want ultimately. Mr Trump has under the constitution the pardon power and that was a pretty stark exercise of that pardon power on the eve of a close friend of his being sentenced. Ed Do you think we're gonNA see more interventions this spy trump perhaps related to the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the election. People like Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. Who Manafort I think would definitely be a case for another pop and I would be very surprised if Michael Cohen Without Him. Because Michael Cohen Tablet Trump describes a rat in that inimitable. Kind of multi language that the president sometimes uses Michael. Cohen testified to Congress very damagingly against president. Trump's he's considered to be a tax cut. The thing that links you know all these Haden's whether it's Michael Milkin Rod Blagojevich Obama Carrick. Us police commissioner who was the security guard incidentally for Rudy Giuliani. The thing that links all of them is that they're pretty well connected people who've committed white-collar crimes and who have upbeat through Fox News. In some cases that Bregovic wife spoke on Fox News. He carrots by on Fox News to capture the president's attention and I think the pattern is again very trumpian thing. It's it's about. People who trump identifies with he feels as acute. Did he feels. He's fatty toxic at he. Identifies WITH OTHERS. Who fit that description again though. The role of connections and of mutual friends and a Fox as dishing platform for pardon. These are very common. There's a pattern here. How big a cause of concern is all this. I mean it's trump's use of the pardon power markedly different from other presidents will Clinton famously on his last day in office Rich Hedge Fund billionaire and friend of the Clintons Madonna to the Clintons and that caused a lot of bad blood. Clinton was heavily criticised for intervening on behalf of a friend and it stood out and I guess the reason I mentioned that is it. Was Fatty unusual. It's now completely normal. Trump has happened many many people who under the inventions of us? Pardon history wouldn't ready quantify so I think he has changed quite dramatically and just to add on. There's an interesting historical link year. Another controversial use of the pardon power in the past was George H W Bush who infamously pardoned a whole swath of former officials who are indicted in connection to the Iran Contra Scandal and bill bar the current. Us Attorney General was back then also attorney general and so Mr Bar He had pushed not just for one. Pardon of Caspar Weinberger. Who was the former Secretary of defense? He said listen. If you're gonNA pardon any of these people you have to pardon all of them. I think his quote was in for a penny in for a pound and so you may have the curious historical echo if MR trump loses later this year of his attorney general at the end of his time in office being the same attorney general at the end of George W Bush's time in office advising him on. You know who to pardon before he leaves Hamas all this been received in Washington and then around the US do people care. It's been received as many other actions by president trump being received with a high temperature reaction inside the Washington. Beltway and shrug outside the GNOMES that being trashed here in a row very significant look at the powers of the presidency. The procedures the the president uses before he acts and the conventions so that being shredded caused great angst in Washington. Dc across the political divide and almost badly registered a ripple outside of Washington. The same of course applies to impeachment. It really didn't resonate much isn't resonating match in the Democratic primaries. In places like Iowa New Hampshire and so I think this is far far lower. It may be it should be different than ideal while but it registered FAFA LOA on the vote says right of than than even impeachment.