Trump Commutes Stone Prison Sentence 07/11 10:27
President Donald Trump has commuted the sentence of his longtime political
confidant Roger Stone, intervening in extraordinary fashion in a criminal case
that was central to the Russia investigation and that concerned the president's
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump has commuted the sentence of his
longtime political confidant Roger Stone, intervening in extraordinary fashion
in a criminal case that was central to the Russia investigation and that
concerned the president's own conduct.
The move came Friday, just days before Stone was to begin serving a 40-month
prison sentence for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the
House investigation into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to win
the 2016 election.
The action, which Trump had foreshadowed in recent days, underscores the
president's lingering rage over special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation
and is part of a continuing effort by the president and his administration to
rewrite the narrative of a probe that has shadowed the White House from the
outset. Democrats, already alarmed by the Justice Department's earlier
dismissal of the case against Trump's first national security adviser, Michael
Flynn, denounced the president as further undermining the rule of law.
Stone, 67, had been set to report to prison on Tuesday after a federal
appeals court rejected his bid to postpone his surrender date. But he told The
Associated Press that Trump called him Friday evening to tell him he was off
"The president told me that he had decided, in an act of clemency, to issue
a full commutation of my sentence, and he urged me to vigorously pursue my
appeal and my vindication," Stone said by phone from Fort Lauderdale, Florida,
where he was celebrating with friends. He said he had to change rooms because
there were "too many people opening bottles of Champagne here."
Although a commutation does not nullify Stone's felony convictions, it
protects him from serving prison time as a result.
The move is another extraordinary intervention by Trump in the nation's
justice system and underscores anew his willingness to flout the norms and
standards that have governed presidential conduct for decades. As Trump stares
down a coronavirus pandemic that has worsened his chances for reelection, he
has been more willing than ever to test the limits of his power.
Democrats denounced Trump's action. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday
called it "an act of staggering corruption," saying legislation is needed to
prevent a president from pardoning or commuting the sentence of someone who
acted to shield that president from prosecution.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff called it "offensive to the
rule of law and principles of justice. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom
Perez asked, "Is there any power Trump won't abuse?"
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, also condemned the move.
"Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the
sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very
president," he tweeted Saturday.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, in a statement, called Stone a
"victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media," and
declared, "Roger Stone is now a free man!"
Stone had been open about his desire for a pardon or commutation, appealing
for the president's help in a monthslong television and social media campaign
and seeking to postpone his surrender date by months after getting a brief
extension from the judge, in part by citing the coronavirus.
Trump, who had made clear in recent days that he was inching closer to
acting, had repeatedly publicly inserted himself into Stone's case, including
just before Stone's sentencing.
That earned a public rebuke from his own attorney general, William Barr, who
said the president's comments were "making it impossible" for him to do his
job. Barr was so incensed that he told people he was considering resigning over
"With this commutation, Trump makes clear that there are two systems of
justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else,"
Schiff said. "Donald Trump, Bill Barr, and all those who enable them pose the
gravest of threats to the rule of law."
Stone, a larger-than-life political character who embraced his reputation as
a dirty trickster, was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to have been convicted
of charges brought during Mueller's investigation.
A longtime Trump friend and informal adviser, Stone boasted during the
campaign that he was in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through a
trusted intermediary and hinted at inside knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans to
release more than 19,000 emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic
But Stone denied any wrongdoing and consistently criticized the case against
him as politically motivated. He did not take the stand during his trial, did
not speak at his sentencing. His lawyers did not call any witnesses in his
Prosecutors had originally recommended Stone serve seven to nine years in
prison. But in a highly unusual move, Barr reversed that decision after a Trump
tweet and recommended a more lenient punishment, prompting a mini-revolt inside
the Justice Department, with the entire prosecution team resigning from the
Department officials have vehemently denied Barr was responding to Trump's
criticism and have insisted there was no contact with the White House over the
decision. Barr has also pointed out that the judge, in imposing a 40-month
sentence, had agreed with him that the original sentencing recommendation was
Barr has said the prosecution was justified, and the Justice Department did
not support Stone's more recent effort to put off his surrender date. Though
the Justice Department raised concerns about the handling of Flynn's case,
including what it said were irregularities about his FBI interview, prosecutors
did not point to any similar issues or problems with the Stone prosecution.
Even so, the commutation will almost certainly contribute to a portrait of a
president determined to erase the impact of the Russia investigation and to
intervene on behalf of allies.
The commutation was the latest example of Trump using his unlimited clemency
power to pardon powerful men he believes have been mistreated by the justice
Trump went on a clemency spree in February, commuting the 14-year prison
sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, and pardoning
former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, financier Michael Milken
and several others.
Trump has also offered clemency to other political allies, including Joe
Arpaio, an Arizona sheriff who was awaiting sentencing at the time,
conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who had been convicted on campaign
finance violations, and Conrad Black, a newspaper publisher convicted of fraud
who had written a flattering book about the president.
Trump, however, has spent much more time trumpeting his decision to commute
the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving life in prison for
nonviolent drug offenses and who came to Trump's attention after reality star
Kim Kardashian West took up her cause. Her story was featured in a Trump
campaign Super Bowl ad.
Stone told the AP he expressed his gratitude to Trump in the phone call.
"You know, he has a great sense of fairness," Stone said. "We've been
friends for many, many years, and he understands that I was targeted strictly
for political reasons."