Trump commutes prison sentence of longtime adviser Roger Stone

Source: Politico | July 10, 2020 | Josh Gerstein, Kyle Cheney and Betsy Woodruff Swan

Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison after being found guilty on seven felony charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller amid the Russian collusion investigation.

President Donald Trump on Friday commuted the prison sentence of longtime adviser Roger Stone, who was found guilty of seeking to thwart congressional and FBI investigations into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Stone, 67, was sentenced in February to three years and four months in prison after a trial late last year where a jury found him guilty on all seven felony charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The White House said in a statement: “Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the unjust sentence of Roger Stone, Jr,” calling Stone “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years.”

Trump acted just after a federal appeals court panel denied a last-ditch bid by Stone to delay an order for him to surrender at a federal prison in Jesup, Ga. next Tuesday. Stone claimed he suffered from health conditions that put him at serious risk of dying if he went to that prison, which is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak.

Trump’s move to protect a close ally from a conviction stemming from a probe that also included an investigation of Trump’s own conduct quickly set off explosive recriminations in the Democratically controlled House, where leaders have long said clemency for Trump’s inner circle would amount to obstruction of justice. It also comes despite Attorney General Bill Barr’s declaration that Stone’s prosecution was “righteous” and that his sentence was fair.

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The White House’s statement Friday did not explicitly mention that six of the seven felonies Stone was convicted of pertained solely to efforts to deceive Congress. The official explanation of the commutation also asserted that Stone would never have been prosecuted if Mueller had not been appointed.

The statement also minimized the charges Stone faced, calling them “process-based” and suggesting that they weren’t necessarily crimes at all. Rather, per the White House, they were leveled “to manufacture the false impression of criminality lurking below the surface.”

“‘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,” the statement said. “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.”

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By granting a commutation to Stone rather than an outright pardon, Trump allows his longtime adviser and confidant to continue with his appeal of his convictions.

For Trump, a commutation serves two additional purposes: protecting a close political ally who was deeply tied to his campaign’s effort to promote WikiLeaks’ hacked emails from the Clinton campaign and casting doubt on the subsequent investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election by Mueller. Trump has assailed the probe since its May 2017 onset, and now he’s poised to absolve the allies who defended him throughout it.

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