WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday injected new political drama into the legal debate over whether Roger Stone deserves a new trial, tweeting during a hearing in the matter that the jury forewoman who voted to convict his longtime friend and confidant was "totally biased" and seeming to suggest the judge was, as well.
Trump's comments came just as U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had rebuked him and others over their attacks on the juror, and it seemed to put the president at odds with his own Justice Department, which argued against Stone's bid for new legal proceedings.
Jackson ultimately ended the hearing without a decision after taking testimony from three jurors on the panel - including the forewoman. The judge is expected to issue a ruling soon.
Trump's attorney general, William Barr, has warned him publicly and privately to stop tweeting about Justice Department criminal cases, though Trump proved again Tuesday that the advice has fallen on deaf ears.
"There has rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case," Trump wrote. "Look at her background. She never revealed her hatred of 'Trump' and Stone. She was totally biased, as is the judge. Roger wasn't even working on my campaign. Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!"
Minutes later, Trump seemed to add an attack on the judge, retweeting a link that Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano had tweeted with the headline, "Roger Stone judge's bias may have jeopardized entire trial: former Democratic Party lawyer."
"A total miscarriage of justice!" Trump added in his own voice.
A jury convicted Stone in November of lying during testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017 to conceal his central role in the Trump campaign's efforts to learn about Democratic computer files hacked by Russia and made public by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks to damage Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton. Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, though he has been aggressively seeking a new trial.
Just days ago, Jackson had slapped down Stone's request that she be disqualified from the case, writing that it "appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use the Court's docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words 'judge' and 'biased' in it."
Though the juror's name was not mentioned in court, Jackson made clear the person at issue was the forewoman. She has publicly identified herself as Tomeka Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress.
At issue were her responses to a questionnaire she filled out before her jury service, and her social media posts about Trump, Stone and other politically charged topics.
The hearing was only partially public - with reporters allowed to listen to an audio feed - after Jackson expressed concern about jurors' safety following comments from Trump and others. A day before Stone requested the new trial this month, Trump suggested on Twitter that the forewoman of the jury in the case had "significant bias."
"This is indisputably a highly publicized case in which the president himself shone a spotlight on the jury," Jackson said, adding, "Any attempt to harass or intimidate jurors is completely antithetical to our system of justice."
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Trump's tweets.
Stone defense attorney Seth Ginsberg said Hart was not truthful when she denied recalling commenting publicly on Stone's case, citing her retweet of a news article about Stone's arrest and indictment, with the comment, "Brought to you by the lock her up peanut gallery." He also singled out an August 2019 post in which, he said, "the foreperson equated being a supporter of Trump with being a racist."
In one post, Hart seem to refer to Trump as a "#KlanPresident," a reference to the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan group.
"She failed to disclose evidence regarding her strong views of Mr. Stone and the political issues in this case," Ginsberg said.
The judge, though, seemed skeptical. She drew a distinction between animus against Stone and commentary on other political topics, and noted that the forewoman did not hide in her questionnaire that she had views on Trump.
Growing heated at one point, Jackson pointed out that during jury selection it was she, the judge, who pressed the potential juror about her ability to remain impartial, and that Stone's defense attorney said he had no questions. That defense attorney, Robert Buschel, said "Thank you" and sat down, never challenging the juror's selection, Jackson asserted.
Stone's attorneys also conceded during the hearing that neither they nor his jury consultants ran a Google search on the juror, despite knowing for days she was likely to be among the first selected, citing "cost-slash-strategic" considerations.
For her part, Hart acknowledged making Twitter posts that noted Stone's indictment. One referred to Stone and other charged Trump associates as the "lock-her up peanut gallery," another retweeted without comment a defense of the manner of his arrest. But Hart insisted she had "no intention" of misleading the court in her responses before she was selected and said she ignored anything about the case that came to her via social media during the trial.
To one question, which asked whether she had written or posted anything for public consumption about the defendant, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, or the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller III, Hart responded, "Honestly not sure."
"I was zeroed in about Roger Stone in responding to that question, but I still didn't remember," she said.
Asked about her posting an image of a fist bump and another raised fist early on the morning the panel began deliberations and reached a verdict, she said she was "absolutely not" celebrating the conclusion. She called the post a sign of "solidarity," but did not elaborate.
Two other jurors, a man and a woman, both said that no outside social media posts had been brought to their attention during deliberations and that the panel debated each count carefully. The woman said the forewoman insisted they "slow down," even as some in the group were ready to decide.
Prosecutors' contention seemed to be that Stone's defense attorneys had ample time to review juror questionnaires, which they were given on Sept. 13, and did not raise an objection in real time.
Prosecutor J.P. Cooney said none of the postings made by the forewoman during the trial, from Nov. 6 through Nov. 15, were related to Stone's case when he and another prosecutor examined them two or three days after Stone's Feb. 14 filing.
He added, however, that some links have subsequently been disabled.
In an unusual twist, the government on Tuesday called as a witness one of the prosecutors who brought the case against Stone at trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Marando.
Marando withdrew from the case in recent weeks after Justice Department leadership intervened to reduce the sentencing recommendation he and the other career prosecutors on the team made for Stone.
Marando testified that Stone's defense was given a list five days before jury selection began of about 80 potential jurors in the order they would be questioned, meaning those at the top would be likeliest to be selected.
"It's coming back to me now. A lot has happened since them," Marando said.
The Supreme Court standard for juror qualification is that they need not "be totally ignorant of the facts and issues involved. . . . It is sufficient if the juror can lay aside his impression or opinion and render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court."
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The Washington Post's Paul Duggan and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.
The Washington Post's Paul Duggan and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.This article was written by Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, reporters for The Washington Post.