The unofficial kickoff was on Monday’s Hannity, as the Fox News hosted landed Stone’s first big interview since Trump commuted a 40-month sentence on charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering. The furor over the president’s decision was apparently so great that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote an op ed defending the prosecution of Stone and the overall Russia investigation.
Hannity’s interview was about what you would expect — less an inquiry into Stone’s conduct than a chance to defend Trump’s decision and to discredit Mueller’s investigation as a witch hunt.
Hannity called Stone’s charges a “process crimes,” claimed he didn’t get a fair trial and berated the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, for putting a gag order on him as his trial neared.
“I wouldn’t want a gag order on any American that should have a right to speak out in their own defense,” Hannity said, not mentioning that the order was placed on Stone after he posted a picture of the judge on Instagram next to the symbol of a gun crosshairs.
Stone thanked a number of people, including Tucker Carlson (who “took up the cudgels early”) and Trump, who he said “saved my life,” as he faced a “near death sentence” from being sent to a “COVID-infested prison.”
As for Hannity, Stone told him that his advice “was as solid as can be.”
“You said, ‘God will never desert you. He will never abandon you. He will protect you if you — if you confess your sins and you walk in his way.’ And I have done my very best to do that,” Stone said.
Did those confession of sins include the Mueller team’s charges, or the “process crimes”? Hannity didn’t ask.
In defending his prosecution of Stone, Mueller wrote, “A jury later determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress.”
On Hannity, Stone claimed that he was a victim of a conspiracy between Mueller prosecutors and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and the result were “gotcha questions, most of them of no consequence.”
He also denied that his clemency was some kind of a quid pro quo, spared from a prison term in exchange for keeping silent about what he told the president about the Russian email hacks during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“What I said has been consistent, that I would not lie against my friend of 40 years so they could use it for impeachment,” Stone said. “They wanted me to be the ham in their ham sandwich because they knew the Mueller Report, particularly on Russia, was a dud. It was a goose egg. They had nothing.”
So did prosecutors promise him freedom if he “would say certain things they wanted you to say whether they were true or not,” Hannity asked.
Stone then attacked one of the prosecutors, Jeannie Rhee, as having a “clear bias” and “all the charm of a North Korean prison guard.” He claimed that she made it clear to his lawyers that “if I would come clean, if I would confess,” they would recommend leniency.
He’s been banned from Twitter and Facebook, but that won’t make much of a difference. In recent days, Stone told Axios he is working on a book and told ABC News he planned to campaign for Trump.