The judge handling the criminal case that set off a white-hot, national political controversy last week — the prosecution of President Donald Trump's longtime adviser Roger Stone — has ordered both sides to take part in a telephone hearing Tuesday to discuss the status of the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the unusual Sunday order after the entire four-person prosecution team withdrew from the case following Attorney General Bill Barr's intervention to rescind their recommendation of a seven-to-nine year sentence for Stone.
The move set off a furor inside and outside the Justice Department, with Barr facing accusations he was politicizing the department by seeking to favor Trump's friends. Barr later publicly rebuked Trump for tweeting about ongoing criminal cases.
Defense attorneys for Stone also filed a second motion for a new trial last week, after Jackson rejected one such motion filed last year.
Stone is currently set to be sentenced Thursday morning in Washington on the seven felony counts that a jury convicted him on last November, relating to efforts to impede congressional and FBI investigations into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
It's unclear whether the judge will decide to proceed with the sentencing as scheduled, given the latest motion for a new trial and questions about how easily prosecutors will be able to respond to it with those most familiar with the case having formally stepped back from it and, in one instance, quit his job altogether.
Some former Justice Department prosecutors are urging Jackson to inquire into the abrupt withdrawal of the trial team last week and the reversal in the government's position, but she has not yet signaled any plans to do that.
As recently as Friday, the judge seemed intent on moving toward sentencing, issuing an order requiring the government to respond to the latest new trial motion — which remains under seal — by midnight Tuesday.