Pres­i­dent com­mutes 40-month term of his ad­vi­sor, con­victed of ly­ing to Congress.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Megerian

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump has com­muted the prison sen­tence of Roger Stone, a long­time con­fi­dant and Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive who was found guilty last year of seven felony counts, in­clud­ing wit­ness tam­per­ing and ly­ing to Congress dur­ing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Stone was to re­port to prison on Tues­day to start serv­ing 40 months be­hind bars.

“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,” White House Press Sec­re­tary Kayleigh McE­nany said in a state­ment. “There was never any col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump Cam­paign, or the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion, with Rus­sia.”

She said Stone, 67, would be at “se­ri­ous med­i­cal risk in prison.”

Trump had long ar­gued that Stone was im­prop­erly tar­geted by fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors, and he re­peat­edly hinted that he would grant clemency to Stone.

“I’ll be look­ing at it,

“Trump had told re­porters ear­lier Fri­day. “I think Roger Stone was very un­fairly treated, as were many peo­ple.” Un­like a par­don, a sen­tence com­mu­ta­tion does not erase the con­vic­tion. It leaves the felonies on Stone’s record but al­lows him to avoid prison. Stone has re­mained un­re­pen­tant.

The de­ci­sion marks the lat­est ef­fort by Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion to undo the work of for­mer spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III, who suc­cess­fully pros­e­cuted sev­eral mem­bers of the pres­i­dent’s in­ner cir­cle as part of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

Stone’s case be­came a fo­cus of con­cerns about po­lit­i­cal med­dling in crim­i­nal cases af­ter Atty. Gen. Wil­liam Barr over­ruled his own pros­e­cu­tors in Fe­bru­ary and re­quested a lower sen­tence for Stone. Four ca­reer pros­e­cu­tors with­drew from the case, one of whom quit.

But Barr sig­naled in an in­ter­view with ABC News that he dis­agreed with Trump and be­lieved Stone should still spend time be­hind bars. “The pros­e­cu­tion was right­eous, and I think the sen­tence that the judge ul­ti­mately gave was fair,” Barr said.

Barr’s han­dling of cases stem­ming from the Rus­sia in­quiry has been con­tro­ver­sial. In May, he asked a fed­eral judge to drop the felony charge against Michael Flynn, Trump’s first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, even though Flynn had pleaded guilty to ly­ing to FBI agents. That case is still pend­ing.

Although Stone was con­victed of seven felony counts and sen­tenced to more than three years in prison, he was free as he ap­pealed his con­vic­tion. Wit­nesses at Stone’s trial said he com­mu­ni­cated with Trump and other top cam­paign ad­vi­sors dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign about Wik­iLeaks’ plans to re­lease emails stolen from Demo­cratic Party com­put­ers.

Pros­e­cu­tors never es­tab­lished that Stone had co­or­di­nated with Wik­iLeaks, but they said Stone lied to the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee to cover up his ef­forts and to pro­tect Trump.

They said he also en­cour­aged Randy Credico, a co­me­dian and talk show host, to with­hold in­for­ma­tion from law­mak­ers. Tes­ti­mony from the trial cast doubt on the pres­i­dent’s writ­ten answers to Mueller, in which Trump de­nied re­call­ing any con­ver­sa­tions Stone had with him or his cam­paign about Wik­iLeaks.

“He was not pros­e­cuted, as some have com­plained, for stand­ing up for the pres­i­dent,” U.S. Dis­trict Judge Amy Ber­man Jack­son said at Stone’s sen­tenc­ing. “He was pros­e­cuted for cov­er­ing up for the pres­i­dent.”

Stone worked in Repub­li­can pol­i­tics for decades and fa­mously has a por­trait of Richard Nixon tat­tooed on his back. Over the years he de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion as a dap­per and quotable pur­veyor of po­lit­i­cal dirty tricks.

Dur­ing the Water­gate era, he do­nated money to a Demo­cratic cam­paign in the name of the “Young So­cial­ist Al­liance” and then leaked the in­for­ma­tion to a lo­cal news­pa­per to em­bar­rass his op­po­nents.

“I’ve al­ways made it clear that I prac­tice hard­ball pol­i­tics, but I draw the line at break­ing the law,” Stone told The Times in 2018.

Stone found a kin­dred spirit in Trump, who gained po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence by pro­mot­ing false claims that Pres­i­dent Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and he worked for years as an in­for­mal po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sor to Trump.

Stone left his of­fi­cial po­si­tion in the Trump cam­paign in 2015 un­der ac­ri­mo­nious cir­cum­stances, but he con­tin­ued to speak with Trump and some of his top aides. As Mueller be­gan to build a case against Stone, Trump pub­licly praised him for not co­op­er­at­ing with pros­e­cu­tors, call­ing him “very brave.”

“There is ev­i­dence that the pres­i­dent in­tended to re­in­force Stone’s pub­lic state­ments that he would not co­op­er­ate with the gov­ern­ment when the pres­i­dent likely un­der­stood that Stone could po­ten­tially pro­vide ev­i­dence that would be ad­verse to the pres­i­dent,” said a re­cently unredacted por­tion of the Mueller re­port.

Stone ap­pealed for a par­don even as the jury was de­lib­er­at­ing at the end of his trial, work­ing through Alex Jones, founder of the con­spir­acy web­site In­fowars.

Jones de­liv­ered what he said was a mes­sage from Stone on his ra­dio show.

“Alex, bar­ring a mir­a­cle, I ap­peal to God and I ap­peal to your lis­ten­ers for prayer, and I ap­peal to the pres­i­dent to par­don me be­cause to do so would be an ac­tion that would show these cor­rupt courts that they’re not go­ing to get away with per­se­cut­ing peo­ple for their free speech or for the crime of get­ting the pres­i­dent elected,” Stone said, ac­cord­ing to Jones.

Trump ap­peared to agree with that sen­ti­ment, tweet­ing af­ter the jury pro­nounced Stone guilty that Stone may have been sub­ject to “a dou­ble stan­dard like never seen be­fore in the his­tory of our Coun­try.”

Trump’s use of his clemency power has stirred con­tro­versy be­fore.

He over­turned the con­vic­tion of Joe Ar­paio, the for­mer Ari­zona sher­iff found in crim­i­nal con­tempt for vi­o­lat­ing a fed­eral court or­der to stop racially pro­fil­ing Lati­nos. In 2019, he cleared three sol­diers ac­cused or con­victed of war crimes. And he par­doned Di­nesh Joseph D’Souza, a con­ser­va­tive writer con­victed of cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions.

Bren­dan Smialowski AFP/Getty

ROGER STONE was con­victed of seven felonies in the spe­cial coun­sel’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Erik S. Lesser EPA/Shuttersto­ck

ROGER STONE and his wife, Ny­dia, ar­rive at court dur­ing his No­vem­ber 2019 trial in Wash­ing­ton.

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