The White House on Monday said former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama indulged in politically connected pardons and wholesale clemency, defending President Trump’s commutation of a prison sentence for his longtime friend Roger Stone.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the clemency for Stone “was a very important moment for justice in this country,” and that Mr. Trump has used his pardon power “sparingly.”
She said Mr. Trump has issued 36 pardons and commutations in nearly four years, while Mr. Obama issued 1,927 in eight years.
She also contrasted the clemency for Stone with some of Mr. Clinton’s infamous 11th-hour pardons.
“You talk about politically connected pardons — we can’t get more politically connected with pardons than pardoning your brother, Roger Clinton, as President Clinton did,” she said.
On the day before he left office, Mr. Clinton pardoned his younger half brother on a 1985 conviction for cocaine possession and trafficking.
Ms. McEnany also noted that Mr. Clinton gave last-minute pardons for Susan McDougal, a former associate, for her role in the Whitewater scandal, and wealthy Democratic donor Marc Rich, who was wanted for tax evasion. Mr. Rich’s wife donated vast sums of money to the Clinton presidential library and to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign.
“Notably a lot of these pardons were when he was going out the door,” Ms. McEnany said.
She called Mr. Trump “the president of criminal justice reform,” noting his signing into law of the First Step Act in 2018.
“This president has fought for those who are given unduly harsh sentences, more than any Democrat who would like to talk about it, but never actually did it,” she said.
Stone was convicted of seven charges including lying to Congress and obstruction in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He was to report to federal prison on Tuesday to begin serving a 40-months sentence, but Mr. Trump commuted his sentence on Friday night.
Democrats and some Republicans have criticized the clemency for Stone. Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, called it a “mistake.”Attorney General William Barr also said last week that he thought Stone’s conviction and sentence were just.