By Tom Kingsbury
US President Donald Trump has reduced the sentence of longtime Political Advisor Roger Stone.
Stone was convicted in February on accounts of obstructing, lying to Congress, and witness tampering – for which he was sentenced to three years and four months in prison. Stone was the sixth Trump aide found guilty of charges brought by a probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign.
The commutation means that Stone will not be jailed, though it does not retract his original conviction.
In a statement, the White House said:
“Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the unjust sentence of Roger Stone” and that Stone was “a victim of the Russian Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.”
The statement also suggested that the Department of Justice prosecutors, under Special Counsel Robert Mueller, had levelled the charges “to manufacture the false impression of criminality lurking below the surface.”
Who is Roger Stone?
Roger Stone has been closely involved in Conservative politics since the 1970s. He was involved in the campaigns of Richard Nixon (of whom he has a back tattoo), Ronald Reagan, and George HW Bush.
Stone was one of the pioneers of Super PACs, used to circumvent campaign financing laws and spend unlimited amounts in the interest of a political candidate, creating the National Conservative Political Action Committee, or NCPAC.
Stone went on to form the lobbying firm Black, Manafort and Stone after Reagan’s successful 1980 campaign, taking money for providing access to the Reagan administration.
The lobbying group was labelled “The Torturers’ Lobby”, due to their willingness to represent foreign dictators and human rights abusers.
In the 1990s Stone began working for Donald Trump, and reportedly encouraged Mr Trump to run for President on multiple occasions.
Stone was involved on and off in the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign, though Mr Trump has distanced himself from Stone in the years since his election.
Why did Trump reduce Stone’s sentence?
The move came just after a Federal Appeals court panel denied a request by Stone to delay the start of his 40-month prison sentence. At the time of the panel hearing, Stone’s request was denied, and he was ordered to report to prison on the 14th of July.
Stone, 67, said to reporters following the White House statement that he had concerns over his own health due to the dangers of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic in prison.
“At 67 years old with a history of respiratory problems and other underlying health issues, the danger was very real”, he told them.
Trump appeared likely to grant some form of clemency for months, though waiting first for Stone to appeal.
“I want the process to play out,” Trump said following the February sentencing of Stone. “I would love to see Roger exonerated.”
What kind of reaction has this evoked?
Many politicians have spoken out against the move, with a spokesperson for Presidential nominee Joe Biden stating: “President Trump has once again abused his power, releasing this commutation on a Friday night, hoping to yet again avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world”.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement, “With this commutation, Trump makes it clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave her response in a tweet:
President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of top campaign advisor Roger Stone, who could directly implicate him in criminal misconduct, is an act of staggering corruption. https://t.co/Ljqu2E71zs
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 11, 2020
Whilst senator Elizabeth Warren wrote:
Donald Trump has abandoned the rule of law and made a mockery of our democracy. He truly is the most corrupt president in history. https://t.co/GA7apdmd3Y
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) July 11, 2020
President Trump himself tweeted:
Roger Stone was targeted by an illegal Witch Hunt that never should have taken place. It is the other side that are criminals, including Biden and Obama, who spied on my campaign – AND GOT CAUGHT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2020
Although President Trump did not grant a full pardon to Stone, he has significantly lessened Stone’s jail time – something which many have disagreed with. Stone is likely now to seek to have his conviction overturned.twitter Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.