Stone says champagne flowing after Trump commutes sentence for crimes related to Russia probe
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone on Friday, just days before he was set to report to prison. Democrats denounced the move as just another in a series of unprecedented interventions by the president in the nation’s justice system.
Stone had been sentenced in February to three years and four months in prison for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. He was set to report to prison by Tuesday.
Stone told The Associated Press that Trump had called him earlier Friday to inform him of the commutation. Stone was celebrating in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with conservative friends and said he had to change rooms because there were “too many people opening bottles of Champagne here.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called Stone a “victim of the Russia Hoax.”
A commutation does not erase Stone’s felony convictions in the same way a pardon would, but it would protect him from serving prison time as a result.
Democrats were angered by Trump’s move, with House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff calling it “offensive to the rule of law and principles of justice,” and
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez asking, “Is there any power Trump won’t abuse?”
The action, which 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. His administration has been eager to rewrite the narrative of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, with Trump’s own Justice Department moving in May to dismiss the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Stone told the AP that the president did not mention the statuses of Flynn or his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also ensnared in the Russia probe.
“What am I going to do now? I am going to work as hard as I can to make sure that Mike Flynn gets final justice,” Stone said. “Mike Flynn is an American war hero and he’s done absolutely nothing wrong.”
United Airlines and the union representing its pilots have reached a tentative agreement governing furloughs, leaves of absence and early retirements, both sides said Friday.
The agreement is designed to reduce the number of forced job losses, said Capt. Todd Insler, chairman of the United bargaining unit at the Air Line Pilots Association International.
The Chicago-based airline said Wednesday that up to 36,000 employees may be furloughed, including up to 2,250 pilots.
Insler said the bargaining unit’s board will consider the agreement next week. Spokesmen for the union and United said they would not discuss details until it is approved.
“These programs are designed to find as many volunteers as possible interested in stepping back from active flying,” Insler said in a letter to fellow pilots Thursday night.
The pilots getting the furlough notices represent about 17% of the union’s membership at United.
“Unfortunately, this may not be the full extent of the furloughs, and we must be prepared for more based on the company’s plan to be 30% smaller next summer,” Insler wrote. “ALPA is doing everything we can do to support our fellow pilots, and we look forward to final agreements on these voluntary programs which will mitigate pilot furloughs.”
With most flights grounded and travelers homebound and often fearful of taking a plane because of the coronavirus, United laid out plans to downsize its operations. The 36,000 employees getting 60-day notices of potential furloughs represent 45% of its workforce.
It’s possible that not all of the employees will lose their jobs. United said it is discussing with other unions possible agreements for voluntary departures.
In calling United’s announcement a “gut punch,” Sara Nelson, head of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, nevertheless added United’s plans “are also the most honest assessment we’ve seen on the state of the industry.”
Aviation unions are calling on Congress to extend aid for the airline industry into early 2021. Relief under the CARES Act bars airlines from furloughing workers through Sept. 30. United has said its cuts will start Oct. 1.
Pity the poor white man; he just can’t catch a break in this country. If that strikes you as an unpromising theme for a presidential campaign in the year 2020, you must not be an adept of the Trump cult. Seemingly running as the reincarnation of Jefferson Davis — the Mississippian who served as the one-and-only president of the Confederate States of America — Boss Trump travels from sea to shining sea appealing to the resentment and self-pity of those whose ancestors lost the Civil War.
Even if they had no such ancestors. Not every paleface who gets all tingly and aroused by Trump’s dark intimations of cultural warfare is descended from slave owners or rebel soldiers. Unrepentant racists are actually a dying breed across the South. Indeed, you’d think that the state of Mississippi’s decision to remove Confederate imagery from its state flag would give even Trump pause. Not to mention NASCAR’s banning of the Stars and Bars. Bad for business, you see. After all, who defends slavery anymore?
Actually, it’s more the George Wallace of 1968 that Trump appears to be imitating. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin digs up an apposite quote from that year: “The pseudo-intellectuals and the theoreticians and some professors and some newspaper editors and some judges and some preachers,” the Alabama governor said, “have looked down their nose long enough at the average man on the street.”
Everybody looks down on them, see. They are the real victims.
And you know what? It’s not totally imaginary. As the husband of an Arkansas girl in academic New England back then, we met with a degree of prejudice. A mild degree, to be sure, and only in academia, where she got used to being patronized to her face as a dumb bigot. Ordinary New Englanders would ask her questions at the general store just to hear her talk.
Then there was the colleague who sympathized with my own imagined discomfort as an “aristocratic Southerner” with minority students. I’m a person of Irish peasant descent from industrial Elizabeth, New Jersey — then, as now, an immigrant melting pot. Aristocratic? Hardly. I thought a professor who couldn’t spot an Irishman in Massachusetts, of all places, didn’t need to be lecturing anybody about diversity.
But these were minor episodes, essentially comic. Caricature is inevitable when cultures collide.
Nevertheless, we did take the precaution of leaving.
Less amusing are the growing number of farcical but dangerous confrontations provoked by Boss Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric as amplified on social media. Even as the president tweets out messages about “white power” and delivers ominous speeches about left-wing mobs supposedly seeking to “defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” online provocateurs are doing their best to inflame the gullible.
During recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Little Rock, cops seemingly tricked by Facebook postings went around telling people that mobs of antifa activists were holed up in a downtown hotel conspiring to loot and burn wealthy suburbs.
And then what? Return to their hotel rooms and watch porn, I suppose.
Needless to say, nothing happened.
Similar hoaxes have provoked armed vigilantes in Idaho, New Jersey, South Dakota and Michigan in recent weeks into taking to the streets to defend their communities against the largely mythical antifa. (Which is not to say there aren’t self-dramatizing fools on the left, doing their utmost to accomplish for Trump what their political ancestors such as the late Abbie Hoffman did for Richard Nixon in 1968, i.e., provoke a voter backlash against their ostensible cause. Joe Biden can’t proclaim his hostility toward arsonists and looters strongly enough.)
The Washington Post detailed a scary episode at Gettysburg National Cemetery this July 4. Spurred by Facebook postings on a phony antifa page that promised an Independence Day flag-burning festival at the park (“Let’s get together and burn flags in protest of thugs and animals in blue”), a veritable army of militiamen, skinheads, bikers and right-wing zealots showed up locked and loaded to protect Civil War monuments there.
Almost needless to say, nobody showed up to incinerate any flags. The mob did find a Methodist preacher wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt to harass, but park rangers got him away safely. All unaware, the fellow had been visiting an ancestor’s grave.
Post reporters Shawn Boburge and Dalton Bennett searched high and low for the phony antifa site’s author but came up empty. None of the people identifying themselves on Facebook turned out to exist; all the photos were stock commercial images traceable to nobody. The whole thing was a malicious hoax cleverly designed to trick foolhardy armed men into pointing guns at their imagined enemies.
Armed men were goaded into a frenzy by Boss Trump, whose only hope of being returned to office lies in setting Americans at one another’s throats.
One day before too long, I fear, those guns are going to go off.
Roger Stone arrives at federal court in Washington on Nov. 7, 2019.
United Airlines and its pilots union have reached a tentative agreement to reduce the number of forced job losses.
President Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., in June, as his bid for a second term faces growing obstacles.