Stone says cham­pagne flow­ing af­ter Trump com­mutes sen­tence for crimes re­lated to Rus­sia probe

Chicago Sun-Times - - CHICAGO SUN TIMES - BY JILL COLVIN AND ERIC TUCKER

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.

AP FILE PHOTO

Roger Stone ar­rives at fed­eral court in Wash­ing­ton on Nov. 7, 2019.

GETTY IM­AGES

United Air­lines and its pi­lots union have reached a ten­ta­tive agree­ment to re­duce the num­ber of forced job losses.

SUE OGROCKI/AP

Pres­i­dent Trump speaks dur­ing a cam­paign rally in Tulsa, Okla., in June, as his bid for a sec­ond term faces grow­ing ob­sta­cles.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.