Donald Trump on Saturday morning defended commuting the sentence of his confidante and longtime associate Roger Stone, who was set to head to prison this week on seven felony charges.
The NYT reported late Friday: “In a lengthy written statement punctuated by the sort of inflammatory language and angry grievances characteristic of the president’s Twitter feed, the White House denounced the ‘overzealous prosecutors’ who convicted Mr. Stone on ‘process-based charges’ stemming from the ‘witch hunts’ and ‘Russia hoax’ investigation. The statement did not assert that Mr. Stone was innocent of the false statements and obstruction counts, only that he should not have been pursued because prosecutors ultimately filed no charges of an underlying conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia.”
Tweeted Trump, predictably, on Saturday: “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!”
“It is not illegal for a U.S. citizen to act or attempt to act as a go-between between a presidential campaign and a foreign intelligence agency, and Stone was not charged with any crime in conjunction with his Trump-WikiLeaks communications. But it’s a different story for the campaign itself. At a minimum, the Trump campaign was vulnerable to charges of violating election laws against receiving things of value from non-U.S. persons. Conceivably, the campaign could have found itself at risk as some kind of accessory to the Russian hacks— hacking being a very serious crime indeed. So it was crucially important to the Trump campaign that Stone keep silent and not implicate Trump in any way.
“Which is what Stone did. Stone was accused of—and convicted of—lying to Congress about his role in the WikiLeaks matter. Since Stone himself would have been in no legal jeopardy had he told the truth, the strong inference is that he lied to protect somebody else. Just today, this very day, Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman why he lied and who he was protecting. ‘He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”’ You read that, and you blink. As the prominent Trump critic George Conway tweeted: ‘I mean, even Tony Soprano would have used only a pay phone or burner phone to say something like this.’Stone said it on the record to one of the best-known reporters in Washington. In so many words, he seemed to imply: I could have hurt the president if I rolled over on him. I kept my mouth shut. He owes me.“