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Donald Trump ally Roger Stone sentenced to more than 3 years in prison

It’s far less of a sentence than prosecutors originally sought.

President Donald Trump loyalist Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to more than three years 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. Instead, he drew 40 months. Jackson also sentenced Stone to two years of probation after his prison time and fined him $20,000.

Stone had no immediate reaction in court when Jackson announced his sentence. Later, he emerged from the courthouse to a crowd exchanging back and forth chants of “Lock him up” and “Pardon Roger Stone.” Stone got into a black SUV without speaking to reporters.

His attorney Bruce Rogow said Stone and his team would “have no comment.” The judge delayed execution of his sentence while she considers Stone’s motion for a new trial.

The sentencing set off a parlor game of speculation in Washington, with many wondering when — not if — Trump would grant Stone a pardon. But Trump, who issued 11 high-profile pardons earlier this week, said he was holding off for now.

“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States,” he said during an appearance in Las Vegas. “I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I would love to see Roger exonerated.”

But even the prospect that Trump might someday pardon Stone prompted a preemptive rebuke Thursday from critics like Democratic House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who tweeted after the sentencing that, “to pardon Stone when his crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of corruption.”

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump ally, signaled early support for such a move, tweeting that Trump has “all the legal authority in the world” to pardon Stone if he chooses.

Stone 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. 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 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.

“This is intolerable to the administration of justice,” Jackson said. She also had stern words for the new prosecution team.

“Why are you the one who is standing here today?” Jackson asked federal prosecutor John Crabb, who took over the case after the original trial team quit.

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