UPDATED: President Donald Trump has commuted the sentence Roger Stone, his former adviser and early political mentor, just days before he was set to begin serving prison time for his conviction on charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that “particularly in light of the egregious facts and circumstances surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial, the president has determined to commute his sentence. Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”
Trump had for some time criticized Stone’s prosecution, even calling it a “miscarriage of justice.” But the pardon, particularly one so close to the 2020 presidential election, carries substantial electoral risks for Trump.
“President Trump has once again abused his power, releasing this commutation on a Friday night, hoping to yet again avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world,” Bill Russo, a spokesman for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, wrote on Twitter. “He will not be shamed. He will only be stopped when Americans make their voice heard at the ballot box this fall.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter, “Trump just commuted Roger Stone’s sentence. Stone lied and intimidated witnesses to hide Trump’s exploitation of the Russian hack of his opponent’s campaign. With Trump there are now two systems of justice in America: One for Trump’s criminal friends and one for everyone else.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) wrote, “Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”
Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison in February, on charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as they investigated Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down the sentence after delivering a rebuke to Stone and Trump himself, asserting that it was essential for the judiciary to maintain its independence.
Stone’s conviction was on charges that he lied about the nature of his contacts with Wikileaks as the House Intelligence Committee conducted an investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election. He also was accused of threatening Randy Credico, a radio host and the intermediary between Stone and Wikileaks.
In her statement (read it in full below), McEnany said that Stone was “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency. There was never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia.”
She added, “The simple fact is that if the Special Counsel had not been pursuing an absolutely baseless investigation, Mr. Stone would not be facing time in prison.”
Even though the court rejected Stone’s efforts to delay his prison time because of the coronavirus crisis, McEnany said that Stone “would be put at serious medical risk in prison.”
Clemency is the act of reducing the severity of a punishment, unlike a pardon, in which a crime is forgiven.
Stone has been a frequent media presence, particularly in right wing media, but his platforms will be more limited even after he was granted clemency. Facebook announced this week that it had removed his accounts from their platforms, and he already had been banned from Twitter.
As prosecutors were preparing their case against Stone in the fall of 2018, he told Variety that he could not think of “any circumstance” in which he would testify against Trump.
On Friday, Stone suggested that the outcome of his case would be different had he cooperated with investigators. He told journalist Howard Fineman that the president “knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”
Stone has known the president for more than 40 years, having been first introduced to him by Roy Cohn. Stone served as an advisor to Trump as he explored a bid for the Reform Party nomination in 2000, and briefly worked on his 2016 campaign.
Here is the full statement from the White House:
Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency. There was never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia. Such collusion was never anything other than a fantasy of partisans unable to accept the result of the 2016 election. The collusion delusion spawned endless and farcical investigations, conducted at great taxpayer expense, looking for evidence that did not exist. As it became clear that these witch hunts would never bear fruit, the Special Counsel’s Office resorted to process-based charges leveled at high-profile people in an attempt to manufacture the false impression of criminality lurking below the surface. These charges were the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice.This is why the out-of-control Mueller prosecutors, desperate for splashy headlines to compensate for a failed investigation, set their sights on Mr. Stone. Roger Stone is well known for his nearly 50 years of work as a consultant for high-profile Republican politicians, including President Ronald Reagan, Senator Bob Dole, and many others. He is also well known for his outspoken support for President Donald J. Trump and opposition to Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Stone was charged by the same prosecutors from the Mueller Investigation tasked with finding evidence of collusion with Russia. Because no such evidence exists, however, they could not charge him for any collusion-related crime. Instead, they charged him for his conduct during their investigation. The simple fact is that if the Special Counsel had not been pursuing an absolutely baseless investigation, Mr. Stone would not be facing time in prison.
In addition to charging Mr. Stone with alleged crimes arising solely from their own improper investigation, the Mueller prosecutors also took pains to make a public and shameful spectacle of his arrest. Mr. Stone is a 67-year-old man, with numerous medical conditions, who had never been convicted of another crime. But rather than allow him to surrender himself, they used dozens of FBI agents with automatic weapons and tactical equipment, armored vehicles, and an amphibious unit to execute a pre-dawn raid of his home, where he was with his wife of many years. Notably, CNN cameras were present to broadcast these events live to the world, even though they swore they were not notified—it was just a coincidence that they were there together with the FBI early in the morning.
Not only was Mr. Stone charged by overzealous prosecutors pursing a case that never should have existed, and arrested in an operation that never should have been approved, but there were also serious questions about the jury in the case. The forewoman of his jury, for example, concealed the fact that she is a member of the so-called liberal “resistance” to the Trump Presidency. In now-deleted tweets, this activist-juror vividly and openly attacked President Trump and his supporters.
Mr. Stone would be put at serious medical risk in prison. He has appealed his conviction and is seeking a new trial. He maintains his innocence and has stated that he expects to be fully exonerated by the justice system. Mr. Stone, like every American, deserves a fair trial and every opportunity to vindicate himself before the courts. The President does not wish to interfere with his efforts to do so. At this time, however, and particularly in light of the egregious facts and circumstances surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial, the President has determined to commute his sentence. Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!