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 that the Left and its allies in the media.”
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.”
Stone, for his part, had been open about his desire for a pardon or commutation, appealing for the president’s help and seeking to postpone his surrender date by months after getting a brief extension from the judge.