Donald Trump commutes sentence of political ally Roger Stone

11 July 2020, 08:08

Donald Trump's commutation of Roger Stone is likely to worry critics of the president
Donald Trump's commutation of Roger Stone is likely to worry critics of the president. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Donald Trump has commuted the sentence of his former adviser Roger Stone who due to serve a 40-month prison sentence for crimes related to the Russia investigation.

The US President's commutation comes just days before his political ally was set to serve his sentence, with Mr Trump claiming Stone was a victim of the Russia "hoax".

Commuting a sentence falls short of a presidential pardon and does not completely erase Stone's felony convictions. However, it will protect him from serving time in prison as a result.

Stone, who would have reported to prison on Tuesday, was sentenced in February for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.

White House officials confirmed the move in a statement on Friday and will likely alarm critics who have previously condemned the president's interventions in the nation's justice system.

The action, which Mr 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.

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His administration has been eager to rewrite the narrative of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, with Mr Trump's own Justice Department moving to dismiss the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn in May.

Stone, for his part, had been open about his desire for a pardon or commutation, appealing for the president's help in a series of Instagram posts in which he maintained that his life could be in jeopardy if imprisoned during a pandemic.

He had recently sought to postpone his surrender date by months after getting a brief extension from the judge.

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

He said the conviction "should be thrown out" and called the Justice Department's initial sentencing recommendation "horrible and very unfair".

"Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!" he wrote.

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

A longtime friend of Mr Trump 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 criticised 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 defence.

Mr 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.