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President commutes sentence of Roger Stone

Roger Stone
Roger Stone

Move comes just days before he was to report to prison.

Posted: Jul 10, 2020 8:27 PM
Updated: Jul 10, 2020 8:28 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone on Friday, just days before he was set to report to prison. Democrats denounced the move as just another in a series of unprecedented interventions by the president in the nation’s justice system.

Stone had been sentenced in February to three years and four months in prison for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. He was set to report to prison by Tuesday.

Stone told The Associated Press that Trump had called him earlier Friday to inform him of the commutation. Stone was celebrating in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with conservative friends and said he had to change rooms because there were “too many people opening bottles of Champagne here.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called Stone a “victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media.”

A commutation does not erase Stone’s felony convictions in the same way a pardon would, but it would protect him from serving prison time as a result.

Democrats were angered by Trump's move, with House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff calling it “offensive to the rule of law and principles of justice," and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez asking, “Is there any power Trump won’t abuse?”

The action, which Trump had foreshadowed in recent days, reflects his lingering rage over the Russia investigation and is a testament to his conviction that he and his associates were mistreated by agents and prosecutors. His administration has been eager to rewrite the narrative of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, with Trump’s own Justice Department moving in May to dismiss the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Stone told the AP that the president did not mention the statuses of Flynn or his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also ensnared in the Russia probe.

“What am I going to do now? I am going to work as hard as I can to make sure that Mike Flynn gets final justice," Stone said. “Mike Flynn is an American war hero and he’s done absolutely nothing wrong.”

Stone, for his part, had been open about his desire for a pardon or commutation, appealing for the president’s help and seeking to postpone his surrender date by months after getting a brief extension from the judge.

Trump had repeatedly publicly inserted himself into Stone’s case, including just before Stone’s sentencing, when he suggested Stone was being subjected to a different standard than several prominent Democrats.

Trump earned a public rebuke from his own attorney general, William Barr, who said the president’s comments were “making it impossible” for him to do his job. Barr was so incensed that he told people he was considering resigning over the matter.

Schiff said the commutation demonstrated the corruption of the Trump administration.

“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,” he said. “Donald Trump, Bill Barr, and all those who enable them pose the gravest of threats to the rule of law.”

Stone, a larger-than-life political character who embraced his reputation as a dirty trickster, was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to have been convicted of charges brought as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

A longtime Trump friend and informal adviser, Stone had boasted during the campaign that he was in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through a trusted intermediary and hinted at inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release more than 19,000 emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee.

But Stone denied any wrongdoing and consistently criticized the case against him as politically motivated. He did not take the stand during his trial, did not speak at his sentencing, and his lawyers did not call any witnesses in his defense.

Prosecutors had originally recommended Stone serve seven to nine years in federal prison. But, in a highly unusual move, Barr reversed that decision after a Trump tweet and recommended a more lenient punishment, prompting a mini-revolt inside the Justice Department, with the entire prosecution team resigning from the case.

Department officials have vehemently denied Barr was responding to Trump’s criticism and have insisted there was no contact with the White House over the decision. Barr has also pointed out that the judge, in imposing a 40-month sentence, had agreed with him that the original sentencing recommendation was excessive.

Barr, who was attorney general during Stone’s trial last fall, has said the prosecution was justified, and the Justice Department did not support Stone’s more recent effort to put off his surrender date. Though the Justice Department raised concerns about the handling of Flynn’s case, including what it said were irregularities about his FBI interview, prosecutors did not point to any similar issues or problems with the Stone prosecution.

Even so, the commutation will almost certainly contribute to the portrait of a president determined — particularly in an election year — to undo the effects of a Russia investigation that has shadowed his administration from the outset, and to intervene on behalf of political allies.

The commutation was the latest example of Trump using his unlimited clemency power to pardon powerful men he believes have been mistreated by the justice system.

Trump went on a clemency spree in February commuting the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, and pardoning former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, financier Michael Milken and several others.

Trump has also offered clemency to other political allies, including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was awaiting sentencing at the time, conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who had been convicted on campaign finance violations, and Conrad Black, a newspaper publisher convicted of fraud who had written a flattering book about the president.

Trump, however, has spent much more time trumpeting his decision to commute the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving life in prison for nonviolent drug offenses and who came to Trump’s attention after reality star Kim Kardashian West took up her cause. Her story was featured in a Trump campaign Super Bowl ad.

Stone told the AP he expressed his gratitude to the president in the phone call.

“You know, he has a great sense of fairness,” Stone said. “We’ve been friends for many, many years, and he understands that I was targeted strictly for political reasons.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 692029

Reported Deaths: 8118
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1420361857
Ramsey59138950
Dakota52802499
Anoka48675484
Washington31035311
Stearns25220241
St. Louis20709336
Scott19922146
Wright18796163
Olmsted16101111
Sherburne13732104
Carver1228652
Clay928595
Rice9218124
Blue Earth883747
Crow Wing7961102
Kandiyohi750289
Chisago725258
Otter Tail680795
Benton6577101
Mower570538
Winona561352
Goodhue557680
Douglas543684
Itasca527671
Beltrami521172
McLeod513464
Steele512821
Isanti497170
Morrison473363
Nobles453850
Becker445859
Polk439975
Freeborn434140
Lyon399854
Carlton395659
Nicollet384747
Pine379526
Mille Lacs360360
Brown354244
Cass350835
Le Sueur345930
Todd328434
Meeker311049
Waseca294725
Martin268733
Wabasha24734
Dodge24655
Hubbard238541
Roseau235924
Houston207416
Redwood204042
Renville202548
Fillmore200810
Pennington193622
Wadena189426
Faribault182825
Sibley178810
Cottonwood178524
Chippewa172739
Kanabec167029
Aitkin157338
Watonwan156711
Rock141819
Jackson135412
Pope13478
Yellow Medicine127020
Pipestone125526
Koochiching122319
Stevens121611
Swift118819
Murray116610
Marshall105818
Clearwater105418
Lake93021
Wilkin90314
Lac qui Parle87024
Mahnomen7069
Big Stone7014
Grant6958
Norman6739
Lincoln6624
Kittson53722
Unassigned50993
Red Lake4937
Traverse4325
Lake of the Woods4124
Cook2140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 438547

Reported Deaths: 6420
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk69441683
Linn26618363
Scott23312265
Black Hawk19397338
Woodbury17483233
Johnson1698692
Dubuque14775221
Pottawattamie13369186
Dallas13048102
Story1211448
Warren707893
Webster6479103
Cerro Gordo6370105
Clinton635898
Des Moines618084
Muscatine5985109
Marshall586981
Sioux547676
Jasper532076
Lee529084
Wapello5230128
Buena Vista479442
Marion464086
Plymouth442185
Henry351341
Jones341159
Bremer331365
Washington330454
Crawford326844
Carroll326553
Benton325756
Boone318636
Mahaska282754
Dickinson276547
Kossuth257471
Clay255629
Jackson253844
Tama246073
Hardin244547
Buchanan244238
Delaware240143
Cedar228025
Fayette227945
Page225724
Wright221741
Winneshiek219237
Hamilton216752
Harrison205476
Madison199920
Clayton199758
Floyd195742
Butler191936
Poweshiek188837
Mills188225
Iowa185927
Cherokee184740
Allamakee181152
Jefferson178238
Lyon178041
Calhoun172213
Hancock170336
Winnebago170131
Cass164356
Louisa161651
Grundy161335
Appanoose158149
Shelby156539
Emmet153241
Franklin152224
Humboldt151626
Union149937
Sac147922
Mitchell146143
Guthrie142132
Chickasaw141618
Palo Alto134527
Clarke130226
Montgomery127940
Keokuk121332
Monroe118733
Howard118422
Ida109838
Davis105025
Greene103012
Pocahontas102623
Monona99034
Lucas98523
Adair97734
Worth9558
Osceola84717
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Fremont76511
Van Buren75221
Taylor73412
Wayne66323
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