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A judge on Tuesday said that she would be placing limitations on public access to the proceedings surrounding Roger Stone’s efforts to secure a new trial. The limitations were in order to protect the identity of a juror who is apparently central to Stone’s claims of juror misconduct that he said warranted a new trial.

In explaining the restrictions, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson brought up recent public statements by President Trump about the juror, as well as the “false” and “incendiary” claims about the jury selection process that were made by conservative media figures earlier in the proceedings.

“This is a highly publicized case, and in a highly polarized political climate in which the President himself has shone a spotlight on the jury through his Twitter platform,” the judge said, adding that “the risk of harassment and intimidation” was “extremely high” for the juror.

Stone’s request for the new trial was filed under seal, and other court documents related to the request have also been shielded from the public.

The move by the judge to impose the restrictions on the new trial request proceedings came just days after Stone was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for misconduct related to the House’s investigation of Russian election interference.

Stone had filed his request for a new trial under seal the week before his sentencing last Thursday, and the judge has put execution of his sentence on hold until the request is resolved.

After announcing the restrictions at a public hearing, Judge Berman Jackson said she would clear the courtroom for the proceedings regarding the underlying request for a new trial. However, an audio feed of the proceedings will be broadcast to a media room and an overflow courtroom for the public.

In explaining the restrictions, the judge implied that the juror in question may be testifying at the proceedings. The judge also told the parties to avoid saying the juror’s name, their jury number, and other information, including information about the juror’s social media accounts, that would identify the juror.

Until this point, the reasons that Stone has requested a new trial have remained hidden from the public. However, all signs point to allegations that have gained traction on conservative websites in recent weeks that have focused on a juror who previously ran for Congress as a Democrat. Transcripts from the jury selection process indicate that Stone’s defense team was aware of her unsuccessful congressional bid and did not seek to block her from being seated on the jury at the time. She is now being accused of lacking candor on her written jury selection form — a baseless allegation that has been egged on by Stone’s friend, President Trump.

Even while the details of Stone’s allegations remain undisclosed, his effort to secure a new trial has appeared unlikely to succeed. At Stone’s sentencing, Berman Jackson praised the jury in comments that Stone then tried to use to force the judge’s recusal from the case. Berman Jackson on Sunday night shot that disqualification effort down. Previously, Stone sought a new trial on the basis that one of the jurors worked for the IRS. The judge knocked that request down as well.

At Tuesday’s hearing on unsealing the proceedings, the judge brought up President Trump’s tweets attacking the juror who is apparently at the heart of the current dispute, as well as other public statements he’d made. She also noted the claims by Fox News host Tucker Carlson that an “anti-Trump zealot” was sitting in the jury, and the “incendiary, false” information about the jury broadcast by Alex Jones at the beginning of last year’s trial.

She warned that individuals angry about Stone’s conviction may choose to take it out on members of the jury personally.

Attempts to invade the privacy of the jurors, she said, are “completely antithetical to our entire system of justice.”

Update: About an hour after Judge Berman Jackson called out Trump’s public attacks on the twitter, he re-upped them.

This post has been updated.

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During a private event hosted by Goldman Sachs in June 2016, former New York City Mayor and now-2020 candidate Michael Bloomberg made a number of damning remarks about his relationship with the banking industry, the merits of a president extending bribes to powerful people in the form of gifts and his distaste for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) progressivism.

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This article is part of TPM Cafe, TPM’s home for opinion and news analysis. 

Dismay over inequality comes in a variety of flavors. For many, it’s simply about fairness — nobody “deserves” a billion dollars, that level of wealth is nothing more than a byproduct of an unfair economic system.

But extreme inequality is not just about fairness. It’s about the sustainability of democracy. Concentrated wealth is concentrated power. We are seeing this on display with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who through shear financial means has propelled himself into the race for Democratic nominee. This shouldn’t be possible, yet it seems most of the Democratic nominees don’t understand the graveness of the situation.

At the Democratic debate in Nevada, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd broke character and asked a good question: Should billionaires exist?

Obviously, Bloomberg was okay with billionaires.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said, “I’m not going to limit what people make.”

Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemed to agree: he began the debate by poking fun at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), describing him as “a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) supports a tax on billionaires’ wealth.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s solution to inequality is a familiar combination of higher taxes on corporations, increasing the capital gains tax — shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic kind of stuff.

Only Sanders seems to identify and talk about the threat billionaires pose simply by existing.

Here’s the problem: A country that permits people to attain unlimited wealth allows them to possess unlimited political power. They can donate unlimited sums of money to political causes and campaigns, a problem compounded by the fact that political parties draw their own districts. When unlimited money means unlimited influence, those with money will continue to invest in politics to protect and increase their influence. It puts the country on the road to oligarchy. Wealth taxes are not just important tools to redistribute wealth, they are a critical check on the political power of the super wealthy.

In many ways the debate over the existence of billionaires comes down to whether you value individual liberty more than you value human lives. As Sanders said, it’s immoral to have billionaires while there are homeless people. There shouldn’t be billionaires while there are starving children or people who can’t afford medical treatments they need to stay alive.

A system that allows billionaires but taxes them at a higher rate is a system not long for this world. Money is power and influence. Eventually, the billionaires will wrest power back and change the tax rates, much in the way the GOP bamboozled Americans by lowering the corporate tax rate under the ruse that it makes America more attractive for business investment.

Capitalism requires strict regulations to ensure fairness. But those regulations are always an election away from being removed by moneyed interests. Because capitalism is okay with inequality, it’s inevitable that all efforts to hinder extreme wealth accumulation will eventually be thwarted or removed. Unlimited wealth means unlimited political donations which means laws and policies that favor the rich. It’s a game of cat and mouse that will only end when the megarich have consolidated power and there are no more mice.

 


Joe Ragazzo is TPM’s publisher.

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