Former Barr Deputy Says Intervention in 'Crony' Roger Stone Case Reeks of 'Favoritism'

A former deputy to Attorney General William Barr during his tenure in the first Bush administration has written a new column assailing Barr's intervention in the sentencing of Roger Stone, an associate of President Donald Trump.

In an article for Just Security, Stuart M. Gerson, who helmed the Justice Department's civil division from 1989 to 1993, described Stone as "a crony of the president" whose assist from the department suggests a "whiff of favoritism."

Barr was attorney general for just over a year at the end of the George H.W. Bush administration.

"It looks to many present and former federal prosecutors that undue leniency was being afforded to a privileged, white friend of the president, who himself lent credence to the charge of favoritism by his relentless social media criticism of the case, the prosecutors, and even the presiding judge," Gerson wrote.

Around one week ago, more than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials, from both Democratic and Republican administrations, signed an open letter calling on Barr to step down after the Stone controversy came to a head. That number has since swelled to more than 2,600 Justice Department alumni.

William Barr
U.S. Attorney General William Barr walks through a hallway at the U.S. Capitol February 25, 2020 in Washington, DC. Barr is on Capitol Hill to attend the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon. Alex Wong/Getty

A few days later, the Federal Judges Association, a national association representing a majority of the judiciary's Article III judges, convened an emergency meeting to discuss the matter.

Roger Stone, earlier convicted on seven felony charges in the District of Columbia, faced a lengthy prison sentence, especially after prosecutors recommended a term of imprisonment within a ratcheted-up guidelines range, seven to nine years.

In an awkward maneuver, the Justice Department overruled its line prosecutors and resubmitted an amended filing pressing for a more lenient sentence. One prosecutor resigned; three others withdrew from the case.

The Justice Department has sought to distance itself from the constant exhortations of the president to come to Stone's rescue. It has said that the decision to overrule the trial team was made independently, before Trump issued a now-fateful tweet disparaging the prosecution.

"Many citizens both inside and outside the Department of Justice are asking whether DOJ stands for the rule of law or for the rule of an authoritarian administration," Gerson writes. "Adherence to the law and the Department's traditions demands that it clearly be the former. There is no room for error or even the perception of it being otherwise."

Trump has continued to assail both the jury foreperson and the U.S. district court judge assigned to Stone's case, Amy Berman Jackson. From her perch on the bench, Jackson used the occasion of Stone's sentencing—he ultimately received 40 months in prison—to defend the integrity of the trial she oversaw against outside criticism.

"He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president," Jackson said. "He was prosecuted for covering up for the president."

During an interview with ABC News, Barr said that Trump's constant tweets make it "impossible" for him to do his job.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment about Gerson's column.