Jackson said that “execution of the sentence will be deferred” while she decides whether Stone deserves a new trial.
“I’m willing to make sure that there are no consequences that flow from the announcement of what the sentencing will be,” she said.
Prosecutors on Tuesday filed under seal a motion opposing Stone’s request for a new trial, and the filing was approved by Attorney General William P. Barr, said a Justice Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
That appears to put Barr at odds with Trump, who on Tuesday quoted a Fox News segment arguing that Stone should get a new trial. Trump said last week that the jury forewoman in the case had “significant bias.”
Stone, 67, was convicted last year of lying to Congress about his attempts to get details from Hillary Clinton’s private emails from the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. Prosecutors said Stone intimidated a friend who could contradict his testimony.
As his Thursday sentencing has drawn near, the longtime GOP operative has twice argued that he deserves a new trial. Jackson rejected his first such demand earlier this month, saying she found no evidence that a juror who worked for the Internal Revenue Service was biased.
His latest motion remains sealed, and defense attorney Seth Ginsberg said in court Tuesday only that “this issue goes to the heart of the case and is such a fundamental issue.”
“It is possible that the entire proceeding might have been different” had it been addressed earlier, Ginsberg said in arguing for a sentencing delay.
“This motion should be handled expeditiously, but I also don’t think it should be handled in a rushed fashion,” the judge said. After sentencing, she said, there will be “ample time.”
All four of the prosecutors who handled the case withdrew last week after Barr publicly overruled their recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison. The suggestion of a more lenient sentence, coming after Trump complained about the initial recommendation, raised questions about whether the White House was meddling in prosecutions and eroding the independence of the Justice Department.
Trump has also derided the prosecution of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for lying to the FBI. Flynn, who is attempting to withdraw his admission of guilt, filed a motion Tuesday suggesting that Barr agrees the case was improperly handled. “It is not settled that there was a valid predicate for any investigation of Mr. Flynn,” defense attorneys wrote, citing Barr’s public criticism of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. “Barr . . . publicly stated [his] contrary position.”
Barr was speaking about another aspect of the Russia investigation and did not mention Flynn in those comments. But the attorney general has assigned Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney in St. Louis, to review and “assist” prosecutors handling the case.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department was represented in court by two senior prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia: John Crabb, acting chief of the criminal division, and J.P. Cooney, head of the fraud unit. They agreed with Jackson that sentencing should go forward this week.
The basis of Stone’s most recent request for a new trial remains under seal but came after the president criticized the jury forewoman in the case.
Tomeka Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners, identified herself as the forewoman in a Facebook post, saying she “can’t keep quiet any longer” in the wake of the Justice Department’s efforts to seek a more lenient sentence for Stone.
Although Hart was not named at the trial, the juror’s identity was always known to Stone’s defense and prosecutors throughout the proceedings. She disclosed her background, including a bid for Congress, in public pretrial jury selection. Stone’s attorneys and his trial judge had the opportunity to question Hart directly and challenge her eligibility at the time.
Stone’s defense team has asked for a sentence of probation, citing his age and lack of criminal history. At trial, they argued that any inaccuracies in his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee were irrelevant because the Trump campaign never succeeded in getting information from WikiLeaks and that his threats to his friend Randy Credico were not serious.
Prosecutors said that defense was not only inadequate but also corrosive to society.
“If that’s the state of affairs that we’re in, I’m pretty shocked,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Marando told jurors in his closing argument. “Truth matters. Truth still matters.”