- President Donald Trump has commuted the sentence of the former Republican strategist Roger Stone, the White House announced Friday.
- In a statement, the White House said 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.”
- The president’s move came after he and his allies complained for months that Stone and others were mistreated by prosecutors as part of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
- A jury convicted Stone of seven felony counts last year: five counts of making false statements to the FBI and congressional investigators, one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstruction of justice.
- Earlier this year, a federal judge sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison for his crimes, as well as a $US20,000 fine, four years of probation after his prison term, and 250 hours of community service.
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President Donald Trump on Friday signed an “Executive Grant of Clemency” commuting the “unjust” sentence of the former Republican strategist Roger Stone, the White House said.
“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,” the statement said. “There was never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia.”
A jury convicted Stone of seven felony counts in November, none of which included collusion or conspiracy. The former strategist was convicted of five counts of making false statements to the FBI and congressional investigators, one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstruction of justice.
Earlier this year, a federal judge sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison for his crimes, as well as a $US20,000 fine, four years of probation after his prison term, and 250 hours of community service.
The White House’s statement announcing the commutation of Stone’s sentence went on to say that allegations of “collusion” were “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,” the statement continued. “These charges were the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice.”
(Fact check: the FBI’s Russia investigation began in July 2016, before Trump won the presidential election. It resulted in indictments against 34 individuals and three Russian entities on charges including but not limited to conspiracy, lying to the FBI, computer hacking, tax fraud, bank fraud, and illegal foreign lobbying. Some of those indicted or who pleaded guilty included Trump’s former national security adviser, campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, and foreign policy aides.)
Saturday morning, Trump reiterated the White House statement,tweeting, “Roger Stone was targeted by an illegal Witch Hunt that never should have taken place.”
Trump, prior to granting Stone clemency Friday, repeatedly implied that he would show leniency to Stone before ultimately deciding to commute his sentence. And Friday’s statement emphasised Stone’s “outspoken” support of the president.
“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,” the statement said. “He is also well known for his outspoken support for President Donald J. Trump and opposition to Hillary Clinton.”
In an interview with the talk radio host Howie Carr earlier this week, Trump complained about Stone’s alleged mistreatment by prosecutors, saying he was “framed” and “treated horrible.” He also praised Stone’s character, saying the former strategist and self-described dirty trickster was a “good person.”
“He was treated so badly,” the president added. When Carr told Trump that Stone was “praying” for a pardon before having to report to prison on July 14, Trump answered, “If you say he’s praying, his prayer may be answered. Let’s see what happens.”
It wasn’t the first time the president hinted that he would grant Stone leniency. After US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson first announced Stone’s sentence, Trump said he was “following this very closely” and that “Roger has a very good chance of exoneration, in my opinion.”
The charges against Stone were linked to his contacts with the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks and subsequent efforts to suppress witness testimony.
Stone’s indictment from the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s office contained a slew of details about his false statements to Congress about interactions involving WikiLeaks; his extensive communications with the far-right commentator Jerome Corsi and the radio host Randy Credico about WikiLeaks’ document dumps in summer 2016; and his prolonged efforts to prevent Credico from testifying to Congress or turning over information to the FBI.
Four career prosecutors involved in Stone’s case initially recommended a sentence of seven to nine years based on federal sentencing guidelines. But after Trump excoriated the recommendation on Twitter, senior DOJ leadership made the unprecedented decision to publicly overrule te prosecutors and seek a more lenient sentence.
The intervention prompted all four prosecutors to withdraw from the case or resign from the DOJ altogether. One of the prosecutors, Aaron Zelinsky, testified to Congress last month that DOJ leaders sought a weaker sentence for Stone at the direction of Attorney General William Barr because they were “afraid of the president.”
Barr, meanwhile, told ABC News after senior officials overrode the prosecutors that he had already decided to request a lighter sentence for Stone before Trump tweeted, but he said the president’s constant public comments made it “impossible” for him to do his job.
Still, the timing of the DOJ’s announcement raised questions and rankled former officials who accused the attorney general of catering to the president’s public demands and allowing Trump to weaponize the DOJ for political purposes.
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