After spending days and nights decrying Attorney General William Barr as a stooge for President Trump after he overruled overzealous federal prosecutors trying to find a maximum of nine years in the sentencing of Roger Stone, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down a sentence consistent with the recommendation Barr amended. In spite of this fact, the liberal broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) made it seem as though Jackson was challenging Barr.
On ABC’s World News Tonight, chief Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas cautiously reconstructed what actually transpired in the instance to craft a narrative against Barr. “Federal prosecutors initially recommending that Stone receive a seven to the nine-year prison sentence, only to be overruled by Attorney General William Barr,” he said.
He then boasted that “Stone alone faced the wrath of a scolding Judge” as he continued to read this quote: “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 foundations of our democracy. If it goes unpunished, everyone loses.”
To back that scolding, Thomas then stated Jackson “sentenced him to three years and four months in prison.” At no point did he accurately refer to what Barr’s suggestion was, nor did he record how other federal prosecutors resubmitted the main endorsement.
Over on the CBS Evening News, where anchor Norah O’Donnell had lied a week ago by asserting Barr sought “to keep Stone out of jail,” chief Justice correspondent Jeff Pegues spun Stone’s sentencing this way:
Always prepare for the cameras, Roger Stone smiled as he left court today, but inside he was quiet and emotionless as Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down the 40-month sentence. Jackson, who had been pushed by the President on Twitter to go easy on Stone, said the longtime presidential friend was “prosecuted not for standing up for the President, but for covering up for the President.”
At no point did Pegues mention Barr’s role.
On the other hand, on NBC Nightly News, Justice correspondent Pete Williams stated what the other networks did not, that new prosecutors resubmitted the main recommendation. “But prosecutors urged the judge to consider all the criminal conduct listed in the Justice Department’s original sentencing recommendation. The one submitted before Attorney General William Barr directed the government to urge a less harsh punishment,” he reported.
“The sentence, three and third years in prison, well below the maximum under federal guidelines,” Williams noted after he too hyped Judge Jackson’s remarks.
And while Williams did not point out that Jackson concurred with the Attorney General, he played out a soundbite of former Obama official and federal attorney Chuck Rosenberg, who praised the sentence but chided President Trump. “I worry that people won’t believe this a fair outcome. Though I do believe it is, intervention from political leaders casts doubt on what happens in federal court,” he told NBC.
The networks refused to give Barr credit because the kerfuffle was just another talking point in their anti-Trump narrative; they knew many former career DOJ officials understood the original sentence recommendation was too much.