I’ve been so focused recently on Ghislaine Maxwell that I haven’t paid much attention to Donald Trump’s many other legal shenanigans, like all of the horsesh-t with Michael Flynn (who still isn’t in prison, even though he honestly did commit treason) or this stuff with Roger Stone. Both Stone and Flynn had complicated, years-long cases involving intensive investigations, Trump tweets, treason, dirty tricks and more. In Flynn’s case, he was actively serving as a de facto double agent.
In Stone’s case, most of what he did fell under the Nixonian “dirty tricks” type of criminality, although there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Stone was basically the middleman between the Russian hacking of Democratic officials, the information being given to Wikileaks and from there, the Trump campaign. Stone was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation (which is like obstruction of justice) and prosecutors were still looking at his middleman activities between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. Stone is also a long-time Republican operative and a long-time Trump friend/associate. So no surprise, Trump just commuted Roger Stone’s 40 month sentence.
President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. on seven felony crimes on Friday, using the power of his office to spare a former campaign adviser days before Mr. Stone was to report to a federal prison to serve a 40-month term. In a lengthy written statement punctuated by the sort of inflammatory language and angry grievances characteristic of the president’s Twitter feed, the White House denounced the “overzealous prosecutors” who convicted Mr. Stone on “process-based charges” stemming from the “witch hunts” and “Russia hoax” investigation.
The statement did not assert that Mr. Stone was innocent of the false statements and obstruction counts, only that he should not have been pursued because prosecutors ultimately filed no charges of an underlying conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” it said. “He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”
The commutation, announced late on a Friday, when potentially damaging news is often released, was the latest action by the Trump administration upending the justice system to help the president’s convicted friends. The Justice Department moved in May to dismiss its own criminal case against Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. And last month, Mr. Trump fired Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney whose office prosecuted Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, and has been investigating Rudolph W. Giuliani, another of his lawyers.
Democrats quickly condemned the president’s decision, characterizing it as an abuse of the rule of law. “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,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and a leader of the drive to impeach Mr. Trump last year for pressuring Ukraine to incriminate his domestic rivals.
Two House committee chairmen quickly announced that they would investigate the circumstances of the commutation, suggesting that it was a reward for Mr. Stone’s silence protecting the president. “No other president has exercised the clemency power for such a patently personal and self-serving purpose,” said a statement issued by Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn B. Maloney, both New York Democrats.
I mean… I completely get the outrage, but surely everyone was expecting this? Trump has been indicating for months that he would do something like this. I think if Flynn ever does get for-real sentenced and he’s just days away from reporting to prison, Trump will do the same for Flynn too. Trump’s only currency is loyalty to him and nothing else. Flynn has “shown loyalty” and Stone has always been 100% behind Trump. So this is their reward. And you should remember that in November. Trump’s actions are so far beyond what’s normal for any president.
Mitt Romney was the only Republican who issued any kind of harsh statement on the commutation of Roger Stone. As I said on Twitter, Romney doesn’t deserve a cookie for merely saying something true, but it’s notable that he was the only Republican to do so.
Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) July 11, 2020
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red and Backgrid.