President Trump has commuted the sentence of longtime friend, former campaign adviser, and notorious dirty-trick operative Roger Stone, who was convicted of seven felonies after obstructing a congressional investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — and who refused to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. In a statement on Friday night, the White House said the president was “commuting the unjust sentence” of Stone, falsely claiming the 67-year-old Trump adviser was “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years.”
Stone was scheduled to begin a 40-month prison sentence for his crimes on Tuesday, though Trump had been widely expected to intervene, as he had criticized Stone’s prosecution and conviction, had the Justice Department seek a more lenient sentence, attacked the judge and jury in the case, and floated the likelihood of pardoning him — having already repeatedly used his power as president to cancel justice for other associates and allies. Stone had also been openly lobbying for some kind of clemency and repeatedly highlighting how he had remained loyal to the president instead of testifying against him.
Stone had also wanted a commutation rather than a pardon, which would imply he was guilty, and he will now apparently continue to try to overturn his conviction. “[Trump] knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t,” Stone told Howard Fineman on Friday.
It was but the latest statement from Stone that seemed to openly acknowledge that he was aware of crimes or misconduct involving Trump, but that he had remained silent — likely knowing that the president would reward his loyalty and protect him in the end.
Trump had apparently been waiting to see if Stone’s legal efforts and appeals to avoid prison would be successful — but they weren’t. Before Trump’s commutation on Friday, a federal appeals court had rejected Stone’s last-ditch attempt to further postpone his prison term on account of his advanced age and the risk of contracting the coronavirus in the federal prison he was to serve his sentence at in Jesup, Georgia.
Among several recent attempts to reframe his struggling reelection bid, Trump has tried to brand himself as “the law and order president.” He may not want Roger Stone to testify to that, either.