Donald Trump has commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, a longtime friend, and former campaign adviser who was to spend three years and 4 months in jail for crimes associated with the Russian investigation.
In a statement released on Friday evening, the White House denounced the prosecution of Stone on charges stemming from “the Russia Hoax” investigation. “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” the statement reads. “He was treated very unfairly, as were many others during this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”
Stone, 67, was convicted in November 2019 of obstructing a congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. He was sentenced in February to 40 months and was thanks to reporting back to prison on Tuesday.
The computation doesn’t erase Stone’s felony convictions the way a pardon would, but it allows Stone to avoid setting foot during a prison for his crimes.
Echoing the language that Trump has utilized in tweets and speeches, the official White House statement attacked the “witch hunts” led by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who was investigating Russian interference within the 2016 elections.
Stone had been openly lobbying Trump for clemency for months.“The president told me he thought my trial has been unfair,” Stone told the Associated continue Friday.
While not unexpected, Trump’s move to spare Stone from prison will only increase alarm among critics concerned that the Trump administration has interfered with the justice system so as to shield the president and his friends.
In February, Trump commuted the 14-year sentence of Rod Blagojevich, a former Democratic Illinois governor accused of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. He also offered clemency for allies including the Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff Joe Arpaio, who disobeyed a judge’s order to prevent racist immigrants, and therefore the conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of campaign finance violations.
Last month, Trump fired Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney who had prosecuted the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and was investigating Rudy Giuliani – another Trump lawyer. And in May, the Department of Justice dismissed its case against the previous national security adviser Michael Flynn after Trump complained that prosecutors were acting unfairly.
“With Trump, there are now two systems of justice in America: one for Trump’s criminal friends and one for everybody else,” said Adam Schiff, a Democratic US representative of California and therefore the lead prosecutor within the president’s impeachment trial, in reaction to the news.
“Regardless of our political parties or differences, we all know this is often disgraceful,” said Val Demings, a Democratic US representative of Florida. “Pray that our republic will endure.”
The commuting of Stone’s sentence comes after the US attorney general, William Barr, revised prosecutors’ original recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in federal prison. Trump had railed that the conviction “should be thrown out” and called the justice department’s initial sentencing recommendation “horrible and really unfair”. Following the reversal, the whole prosecution team performing on the case resigned.
Although the White House didn’t dispute that Stone had committed the crimes that he was convicted, its statement argued that Stone wouldn’t are charged “if the special counsel had not been pursuing an absolutely baseless investigation”.
Stone was celebrating in Florida with conservative friends, consistent with the AP. He told reporters there have been “too many of us opening bottles of champagne here”.