Day 1,268: Trump commutes prison sentence of pal Roger Stone, who hours earlier noted pressure to flip on Trump
Throw in felonious actions, quid pro quo, corruption and a commutation and you have the perfect cocktail for Friday evening’s ‘let’s-hope-this- flies-mostly-under-the-radar’ White House news: Donald Trump commuted the 40-month prison sentence of longtime confidant Roger Stone.
Stone was convicted of sevens felony counts in November: five counts for lying to Congress, one for witness tampering and one count for obstruction. Stone’s actions related to lying about his connection with WikiLeaks and trying to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton.
In arguments and testimony, prosecutors revealed phone calls at critical times in 2016 among Stone, Trump and some of the highest-ranking officials in the Trump campaign: Stephen K. Bannon, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates.
Gates and Bannon testified that the campaign viewed Stone as a sort of conduit to WikiLeaks who claimed — even before the Russian hacking was known — to have insider information. Gates testified that he overheard a phone call in which Trump seemed to discuss WikiLeaks with Stone, calling into question the president’s assertion to Mueller’s office that he did not remember talking about the organization with his longtime friend.
Prosecutors buttressed the witness testimony with call and message records, which they said helped show that Stone’s claims to the House Intelligence Committee were false.
Even Attorney General Bill Barr, who almost never strays from doing Trump’s bidding, called the conviction “righteous,” and urged Trump not to touch it.
The White House issued a statement that seemed aimed to appease Trump more than change anyone’s belief as to why the commutation was actually given. It read, in part:
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. There was never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia. Such collusion was never anything other than a fantasy of partisans unable to accept the result of the 2016 election. The collusion delusion spawned endless and farcical investigations, conducted at great taxpayer expense, looking for evidence that did not exist.
Stone’s sentence was set to start on Tuesday and he was clearly applying pressure to Trump. Just hours before the commutation was announced, Stone reminded Trump of the favor he did.
As if Trump’s commutation couldn’t look more corrupt, Stone yelled the quiet part out loud just before it was official, even seeming to acknowledge that he could still flip on Trump. The obvious subtext of “I was under enormous pressure to turn on [Trump]” is that there is something to “turn on [Trump]” about.
Stone was convicted of lying to protect Trump. To square the circle, and guarantee Stone’s continued silence, Trump commuted the sentence on Friday.
1,268 days in, 194 to go