President Trump commuted the prison sentence of longtime friend Roger Stone on Friday night, days before Stone was to report to federal prison to serve a sentence for lying to Congress and obstruction of justice.
The president said Stone’s 40-month prison term was “unjust.”
“Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump presidency,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “There was never any collusion between the Trump campaign, or the Trump administration, with Russia.”
She said, “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. Roger Stone is now a free man!”
Stone, a longtime Republican operative, was the seventh person to be convicted of crimes in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The Justice Department revised its original sentencing guidelines of seven to nine years in prison after the president called it a “miscarriage of justice,” prompting several federal prosecutors to quit the case.
Stone wasn’t charged with crimes related to alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. He was prosecuted over tweets purporting that he had information about WikiLeaks releasing documents, prior to their release.
Prosecutors accused Stone of lying to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, which dumped damaging and stolen emails in 2016 about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The White House said the “collusion delusion spawned endless and farcical investigations, conducted at great taxpayer expense, looking for evidence that did not exist.”
“As it became clear that these witch hunts would never bear fruit, 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,” Ms. McEnany said. “These charges were the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice.”
She added, “This is why the out-of-control Mueller prosecutors, desperate for splashy headlines to compensate for a failed investigation, set their sights on Mr. Stone. Roger Stone is well known for his nearly 50 years of work as a consultant for high-profile Republican politicians, including President Ronald Reagan, Senator Bob Dole, and many others. He is also well known for his outspoken support for President Donald J. Trump and opposition to Hillary Clinton.”
She said Stone “was charged by the same prosecutors from the Mueller Investigation tasked with finding evidence of collusion with Russia.”
“Because no such evidence exists, however, they could not charge him for any collusion-related crime,” she said. “Instead, they charged him for his conduct during their investigation. 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.”
The White House said the Mueller team “also took pains to make a public and shameful spectacle of his arrest.”
“Mr. Stone is a 67-year-old man, with numerous medical conditions, who had never been convicted of another crime,” she said. “But rather than allow him to surrender himself, they used dozens of FBI agents with automatic weapons and tactical equipment, armored vehicles, and an amphibious unit to execute a pre-dawn raid of his home, where he was with his wife of many years. Notably, CNN cameras were present to broadcast these events live to the world, even though they swore they were not notified — it was just a coincidence that they were there together with the FBI early in the morning.”
The White House said Stone was a victim of “overzealous prosecutors pursing a case that never should have existed, and arrested in an operation that never should have been approved.”
Ms. McEnany also said there were “serious questions about the jury in the case.”
“The forewoman of his jury, for example, concealed the fact that she is a member of the so-called liberal ‘resistance’ to the Trump Presidency,” she said. “In now-deleted tweets, this activist-juror vividly and openly attacked President Trump and his supporters.”
Incarcerating Stone would create “serious medical risk” for him, the White House said.
“Mr. Stone, like every American, deserves a fair trial and every opportunity to vindicate himself before the courts,” Ms. McEnany said. “The president does not wish to interfere with his efforts to do so. At this time, however, and particularly in light of the egregious facts and circumstances surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial, the president has determined to commute his sentence.”
Even before the White House announced the decision, word had begun to leak in Florida, where Stone resides and where the president had visited on Friday.
John Cardillo, a conservative radio host and a friend of Stone, tweeted Friday night that he was “En route to #RogerStone’s house for celebratory drinks.”
“Justice was done by @realDonaldTrump tonight,” he said.
Karen Giorno, who served as Mr. Trump’s Florida primary campaign director, tweeted that “President Trump just granted clemency to @RogerStone tonight!”
“Today is a good day in America,” she said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said “it would be justified” for the president to commute Stone’s prison sentence.
“Mr. Stone is in his 70s and this was a non-violent, first-time offense,” he tweeted. Stone is 67.
Stone was convicted in 2019 on seven counts of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction.
Stone’s lawyer, Grant Smith, said Friday night that Stone “is incredibly honored that President Trump used his awesome and unique power under the Constitution of the United States for this act of mercy.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Stone appreciate all the consideration the president gave to this matter,” Mr. Smith said.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez reacted to the president’s decision by saying, “Is there any power Trump won’t abuse?”
“COVID-19 is devastating our communities and our economy,” Mr. Perez said. “New infections in the U.S. just reached their sixth single-day record in 10 days. And what is Donald Trump focused on? Commuting the sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone just days before he was set to go to prison for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing committee proceedings.”
He said Americans “are fed up with the culture of corruption and flagrant abuse of the justice system in this White House.”
“They are fed up with the incompetence of this president. And that’s why on November 3, they are going to replace him with a man of integrity and courage — Joe Biden,” Mr. Perez said.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, responded to the president’s action in a tweet: “The United States was founded on the rule of law. It seems our president has nothing but contempt for it.”
Sen. Tom Udall, New Mexico Democrat, said the president commuted Stone’s sentence “as a reward for an illegal coverup of election interference.”
“Donald Trump’s corruption and contempt for the rule of law know no bounds,” Mr. Udall tweeted.