Trump loyalist and ally Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in federal prison, following an extraordinary move by Attorney General William Barr to back off his Justice Department's original sentencing recommendation.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone's crimes demanded a significant time behind bars, but she said the seven to nine years originally recommended by the Justice Department were excessive.
Stone's lawyers had asked for a sentence of probation, citing his age of 67 years, his health and his lack of criminal history.
Stone had no immediate reaction in court when Jackson announced his sentence. She is delaying execution of his sentence while she considers Stone's motion for a new trial.
He was convicted in November on all seven counts of an indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.
The sentence came amid Trump's unrelenting defense of his longtime confidant that has led to a mini-revolt inside the Justice Department and allegations the president has interfered in the case.
Trump took to Twitter to denounce as a "miscarriage of justice" the initial recommendation by Justice Department prosecutors that Stone receive at least seven years in prison. Attorney General William Barr then backed off that recommendation, prompting four prosecutors to quit Stone's case.
Jackson angrily denied that Stone was being punished for his politics or his allies. "He was not prosecuted, as some have claimed, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president," she said.
She said during the hearing that Stone's use of social media to stoke public sentiment against the prosecution and the court was intended to reach a wide audience, including using a photo of Jackson with crosshairs superimposed.
Stone was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Witnesses testified that Trump's campaign viewed Stone as an "access point" to WikiLeaks and tried to use him to get advance word about hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton. Prosecutors argued that Stone had lied to Congress about his conversations about WikiLeaks with New York radio host and comedian Randy Credico.
Any jail sentence seems likely to draw a public rebuke from Trump, who maintains that Stone's entire case is just an aspect of the ongoing "witch hunt" against him and his allies by bitter Democrats and the "deep state" inside the FBI and the Justice Department.
Given Trump's recent clemency spree that saw him commute the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, as well as nearly a dozen others, there has been speculation that Trump could eventually pardon Stone.
For more background, here are previous stories on key developments involving Stone and the case.
Photos: Trump confidant Stone sentenced for lying, witness tampering
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