President Donald Trump defended his clemency order for his longtime supporter and self-described dirty trickster Roger Stone on Monday with a rant against the ‘deep state’ and arguing he was getting ‘rave reviews’ for his action.
‘I’m getting rave reviews, frankly, for what I did for Roger Stone,’ he said during a law enforcement event at the White House.
Attorney General Bill Barr was at the event and didn’t address Stone’s clemency despite reports he and other White House officials tried to prevent Trump from letting his pal off the hook when it came to serving jail time, worried about the political implications in an election year.
President Trump, as he defended his action, brought up his longtime complaint that a ‘deep state’ was working against him, mentioning Peter Strzok and Lisa Page – the two former FBI officers who were part of the counterintelligence investigation into his campaign – and former FBI director Andrew McCabe, who authorized an investigation into the president.
Trump has long complained about forces in the government working against him.
He also argued his decision was well received but some White House officials – including chief of staff Mark Meadows – were outraged by the president’s decision, NBC News reported. And Barr recommended clemency not be offered.
But Trump went ahead with the clemency order on Friday, which absolves Stone from serving both time in prison and time in home confinement, according to the order posted to the Justice Department’s web site.
Stone said on Friday President Trump ‘saved my life’ by commuting his sentence just days before he was scheduled to enter a federal prison.
Stone celebrated his newfound freedom with a crowd of supporters and well-wishers outside his Fort Lauderdale home.
‘The president has saved my life, and he’s given me the opportunity to fight for vindication,’ Stone said.
The 67-year-old Stone said that entering prison would have been a death sentence in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I’m 67 years old. I had very, very severe asthma as a child. If you look at the profile of those who are most at risk, I think I fit that,’ he said.
Stone added that he wasn’t surprised by the president’s decision to commute his sentence.
President Donald Trump defended his clemency order for his longtime supporter and self-described dirty trickster Roger Stone
Attorney General Bill Barr was at the White House event and didn’t address Roger Stone’s clemency despite reports he and other White House officials tried to prevent President Trump from letting his pal off the hook when it came to serving jail time
Donald Trump and Roger Stone are longtime friends; they are seen together above in New Jersey in October 1999, for the swearing-in of Trump’s sister as a federal appeals court judge
Roger Stone flashes a victory sign after President Trump commuted his 40-month prison sentence. Stone is seen above in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Friday night
Stone said Trump cited their 40-year friendship during a phone conversation late on Friday in which the president informed him that he was commuting their sentence. Trump is seen left with Roger and Nydia Stone in this undated file photo
‘Well I was, I was elated,’ he said.
‘Obviously I was somewhat relieved, but I was not surprised.’
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ROGER STONE
Having been spared prison time by President Trump’s decision to commute his sentence, Roger Stone says he will appeal his conviction from the comfort of his South Florida home.
Stone, 67, had been set to report to prison on Tuesday after a federal appeals court rejected his bid to postpone his surrender date.
Although a commutation does not nullify Stone’s felony convictions, it protects him from serving prison time as a result.
In comments to reporters outside his Fort Lauderdale residence late on Friday, Stone said he will celebrate his freedom by writing a book about his experience.
He also said he would devote efforts to helping ‘exonerate’ Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.
Flynn twice pleaded guilty to charges that he lied to the FBI in January 2017 about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
Stone also said he may file a formal complaint against Aaron Zelinsky, the federal prosecutor who worked on the Stone case.
In testimony to the House of Representatives last month, Zelinsky claimed that Stone received ‘unprecedentedly favorable treatment’ from the Justice Department.
Zelinsky accused Stone of defrauding the courts and breaking the law on ‘numerous occasions.’
‘If you saw his testimony before the [House Judiciary Committee] it was an incredible blend of obfuscation, hearsay and perjury,’ Stone said on Friday.
‘I got special treatment, he says. Let’s go through the special treatment: 29 FBI agents show up at your house to rouse you out of bed for a white-collar process crime.
‘That’s special treatment?’
Stone said he was happy to receive a commutation rather than a pardon because it allows him a chance to be vindicated in court.
‘I want to clear my name,’ he said.
‘I would like a new trial and vindication.’
Stone was glad that his legal troubles, which he described as a ‘nightmare’ and ‘witch hunt,’ were over.
‘This is a horrific, horrific nightmare when you realize that … this investigation never had any legitimate or lawful beginning,’ he said.
‘It was a witch hunt. There’s no question about that.’
Stone told the New York Post that the president spoke to him by telephone and informed him of his decision to commute his sentence.
‘I told him I was grateful,’ Stone said. ‘He protected my health.’
Stone added: ‘He believes in justice. I felt pretty confident that if he heard the facts of my case, he would make the right decision.’
He said Trump reminded him of their decades-long friendship.
‘He said we’ve known each other for 40 years,’ Stone said.
‘In his opinion, he did not believe I committed a crime.’
Stone said he will appeal his case while at home in South Florida.
‘With the risk of catching COVID, I might not live long enough to see my opinion’ in his appeal if he went to prison, he said.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump ‘signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the unjust sentence of Roger Stone, Jr. … Roger Stone is now a free man!’
McEnany called Stone 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.’
‘Not only was Mr. Stone charged by overzealous prosecutors pursing a case that never should have existed, and arrested in an operation that never should have been approved, but there were also serious questions about the jury in the case,’ she said in a statement.
Democrats were angered by Trump’s decision, 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?’
‘President Trump has once again abused his power, releasing this commutation on a Friday night, hoping to yet again avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world,’ a spokesperson for Democratic nominee Joe Biden said.
‘He will not be shamed. He will only be stopped when Americans make their voice heard at the ballot box this fall.
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.
The move comes less than 24 hours after Fox News, which hosted Trump for a call-in interview Thursday night when he said he was considering a pardon for Trump, reported that Trump was expected to provide executive clemency for Stone.
It was expected that the White House would make the announcement sometime on Friday, when Trump was scheduled to fly back to Washington, DC, from Florida.
The president was in the Sunshine State to host a fundraiser and hold other events even as the state battles a coronavirus outbreak.
Stone’s lawyers had been fighting the July 14 start of the sentence, urging Amy Berman Jackson to delay it by citing the coronavirus and potential risks to Stone’s health.
Clemency is provided before someone starts serving their sentence.
It also may not include the full benefits of a full pardon, which can involve the restoration of voting rights and protection from deportation.
As Washington buzzed about the legal and political implications – and any potential blowback for the president for pardoning a convicted felon who was close to him – Stone told NBC News analyst and Washington Post opinion writer Howard Fineman that he doesn’t want a pardon, which he said implies guilt, but would prefer a commutation of his sentence.
‘He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t,’ Stone said.
Trump (left) commuted the sentence of Roger Stone (right), the longtime former Republican strategist who worked as an adviser on his presidential campaign
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump ‘signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the unjust sentence of Roger Stone, Jr. … Roger Stone is now a free man!’
Word of a Friday night action came hours after Trump told reporters he would soon be reviewing Stone’s case.
Trump has repeatedly defended Stone, who was convicted of witness tampering and lying to Congress.
Trump commented on Stone’s case as he left the White House on a trip to Stone’s home state of Florida – as he suggested both his predecessor and his presumed Democratic challenger should be jailed over the Russia probe.
‘I’ll be looking at it. I think Roger Stone was very unfairly treated, as were many people,’ Trump said.
‘And in the meantime Comey and all these guys are walking around – including Biden and Obama – because we caught them spying on my campaign. Who would have believed that one?’ Trump said.
Trump may have been referring to information about Barack Obama officials who ordered ‘unmasking’ of intercepts that were revealed to involve former national security adviser Mike Flynn – whose prosecution infuriated Trump.
He has repeatedly raged at former FBI Director James Comey for his role in the Russia probe.
Stone, 67, was prosecuted as an offshoot of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe – which Trump repeatedly has cast as a ‘witch hunt’ designed to take him down.
He tweeted last month that Stone was ‘a victim of a corrupt and illegal Witch Hunt, one which will go down as the greatest political crime in history. He can sleep well at night!”
Trump’s comments added to other remarks in interviews Thursday indicating he was on the verge of pardoning or commuting the sentence of Stone, the longtime former Republican strategist who worked as an adviser on his presidential campaign.
Stone’s lawyers had been seeking to overturn Judge Jackson’s order that he report to a federal correctional facility in Georgia by citing COVID-19 and health risks.
When quizzed by Fox News’ Sean Hannity Thursday night on whether he was considering pardoning his friend and ally, Trump responded, ‘I am always thinking’.
‘You’ll be watching like everyone else in this case,’ Trump coyly added.
Trump lamented that Joe Biden (pictured) and Barack Obama were still ‘walking around’ rather than in jail
Roger Stone, longtime political ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, flashes a victory gesture as he departs following a status conference in the criminal case against him brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2019
Stone is a longtime political trickster who idolizes Richard Nixon
A jury convicted the former strategist of seven felony counts in November, which included five counts of making false statements to the FBI and congressional investigators, one count of witness tampering, and one obstruction of justice count.
According to prosecutors, Stone lied during testimony and failed to turn over documents to Congress in 2017, showing he had attempted to make contact with the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks a year earlier.
He lied about five facts, obscuring his attempt to use intermediaries to get information that could help then-candidate Trump in the election against Hillary Clinton.
Prosecutors were initially seeking a prison term of seven to nine years, but Attorney General William Barr later retracted that recommendation shortly after Trump called it ‘harsh’ and ‘unfair’ on Twitter.
The rise and fall of the ‘trysexual’ dirty trickster: How Roger Stone’s swaggering love of Richard Nixon, conspiracy theories and swinging took him to the top then foundered when he lied for Donald Trump
A guilty verdict last year brought an abrupt end to the decades-long career of Roger Stone, a smooth-talking agent provocateur and self-proclaimed dirty trickster who thrived in the shadier margins of U.S. politics.
Growing up in Lewisboro, New York, to a blue-collar Catholic family, Roger Jason Stone Jr.’s zeal for the rough and tumble of political life was apparent from a young age.
In elementary school he advocated for John F. Kennedy telling kids in the cafeteria line that Nixon would make them attend extra classes on a Saturday if he won the 1960 election.
When he was a junior and vice president of student government in high school Stone manipulated the ouster of the president so he could take over.
‘I built alliances and put all my serious challengers on my ticket,’ he would brag to the New York Times decades later.
‘I recruited the most unpopular guy in the school to run against me. You think that’s mean? No, it’s smart.’
Roger Stone was found guilty of obstructing justice, witness tampering and lying to Congress bringing his decades-long career to an end
He worked for Richard Nixon, becoming so enthralled with the president that Stone would later have Nixon’s face tattooed on his back
Stone was hired as an adviser when Trump finally launched a bid for the White House nearly two decades later after Stone first suggested he run. Stone was pushed out in a power struggle
Stone entered the political arena for real in 1972 when he ditched his studies at George Washington University, this time to support Nixon in his re-election campaign – not to be the only time he shifted allegiances without a qualm.
In one of his first ‘dirty tricks’ he contributed $135 to one of Nixon’s Republican rivals in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance – then slipped the receipt to a journalist.
When Nixon triumphed the braggadocious young aide was rewarded with a job in the administration.
Perhaps unintentionally, his association with student dirty tricks also gained him an association with the ‘ratf***ers,’ the dirty operative beloved of Nixon.
Stone himself denied being one of them, saying they were from the University of Southern California, but the nickname was attached to him for life.
The 37th President of the United States left a lasting impression on Stone: the longtime GOP operative would later have Nixon’s face tattooed on his back.
‘Women love it,’ he told the New Yorker. ‘The reason I’m a Nixonite is because of his indestructibility and resilience.
Nixon left another legacy on Stone: Watergate.
During congressional hearings into the scandal in 1973 it emerged Stone had recruited a spy to infiltrate the campaigns of several of Nixon’s Democratic rivals.
He was fired from his job with then-Senator Bob Dole but his reputation for the dark political arts was intact.
Stone reunited with Dole for his 1996 presidential campaign but resigned when The National Enquirer revealed he placed ads on a swingers website seeking sex partners for himself and his second wife Nydia Bertran Stone.
He later referred to himself in an interview with the New Yorker, partly conducted in a swingers club, as ‘a libertarian and a libertine’and a ‘trysexual – I’ve tried everything’.
The couple have more recently apparently found religion, bringing a pastor in robes to the trial with them and being seen at Sunday mass.
The former advisor to President Donald Trump has a tattoo with Nixon’s face on his upper back, which he showed off for a Netflix special
In 1996 The National Enquirer revealed Stone placed ads on a swingers website seeking sex partners for himself and his second wife Nydia Bertran Stone
Stone adopted President Nixon’s iconic V for victory symbol, often posing with it
Stone, pictured at his office in Florida, is a veteran Republican political operative after entering politics in 1972
Stone went on to work for several more presidential campaigns: those of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and, eventually, his longtime friend Donald Trump, who had hired Stone to lobby for his casino businesses in the 1990s.
He likewise forged a longtime bond with the disgraced former Trump campaign chairman and now federal prison inmate Paul Manafort after the pair co-founded one of DC earliest ‘mega-lobbying’ firms, Black, Manafort & Stone, in 1980.
Along the way he picked up a reputation for dark arts and darker acts, a penchant for expensive tailoring and a rolodex of clients from the top of the Republican party and further afield – including Donald Trump’s struggling casino business, a connection which was to prove key to his future.
Stone first suggested Trump run for president in early 1998, and even worked out of Trump Tower for a while to help him.
He was hired as an adviser when his old ally finally launched a bid for the White House nearly two decades later.
But he was pushed out in a power struggle which left him on the outside looking in – and phoning Trump with his advice and also apparently bragging of his connections to WikiLeaks.
Outside the campaign he accused Ted Cruz of having had affairs with five women; Cruz shot back that he was a ‘ratf***er’ and claimed he was ‘pulling the strings on Donald Trump.’
But inside Trump Tower, there was a different, and for Stone sadder, picture emerging.
Stone went on to work for several more presidential campaigns including Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and his longtime friend Donald Trump
Roger Jason Stone Jr grew up in Lewisboro, New York, to a blue-collar Catholic family and where his zeal for politics was apparent from a young age (pictured with Paul Manafort and Lee Atwater)
Senior Campaign figures hinted that the silver-haired Svengali’s influence was waning by the time WikiLeaks threw the 2016 Presidential race into turmoil.
Rick Gates said Stone still had access to senior Trump figures despite having left his position but the relationship had become ‘tense.’
And Steve Bannon admitted in his testimony that he derived enjoyment from ‘heckling’ Stone when his big Julian Assange predictions fell flat.
In the past, a Republican presidency had been a sure-fire payday for Stone but this time round his association with Trump was toxic and expensive.
He found work with InfoWars, an apt home for a man who had pushed conspiracy theories for decades, and a regular place on the speaking circuit.
But the Mueller inquiry brought massive legal bills – and even then expensive legal counsel did not stop him committing a massive blunder in 2017: lying to Congress.
Despite that Stone was predicting right up until January of this year that he would evade Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, sneering in an exclusive DailyMail.com interview: ‘They got nothing.’
Three weeks later he found himself in handcuffs when rifle-wielding FBI agents surrounded his Fort Lauderdale, Florida home in the middle of the night to take him into custody.
In the past, a Republican presidency had been a sure-fire payday for Stone but this time round his association with Trump was toxic and expensive
Stone’s home was raided in the early hours of the morning this year and he was taken into custody
Then, on the steps of the federal courthouse in Broward County, Stone enjoyed perhaps his last hurrah, emerging defiant and unbowed to deliver a scathing diatribe about the Mueller ‘witch-hunt’ while flashing Nixon’s trademark victory signs.
When he followed that up by peddling ‘Roger Stone did nothing wrong’ t-shirts, launching a media tour and posting a mocked-up Instagram image of Judge Amy Berman Jackson in rifle crosshairs, enough was enough.
Berman Jackson responded by slapping Stone with a gag order banning him from speaking about his case in the press or via social media.
When it was their turn to address the trial, defense attorneys chose to play audio of Stone speaking before Congress in 2017 rather than have jurors hear from the man himself.
It was perhaps tacit acceptance that the world had heard quite enough already from Watergate survivor Roger Stone and his vindictive brand of no-holds-barred politics.
Four prosecutors then withdrew from the case in response to Barr’s decision. One of the prosecutors, Aaron Zelinsky, testified to Congress last month that DOJ leaders sought a weaker sentence for Stone at the direction of AG Barr because they were ‘afraid of the president.’
Stone was eventually sentenced by a judge to 40 months in prison for his crimes, in addition to a $20,000 fine, four years probation after his prison term, and 250 hours community service.
The developments in the case raised concerns regarding the DOJ’s independence from political pressure and prompted congressional Democrats to call for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate.
Barr, meanwhile, told ABC News that, regardless of Trump’s tweet, Stone had already decided to request a lighter sentence for Stone. He added that the president’s constant public commentary made it ‘impossible’ for him to do his job.
After US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson announced Stone’s sentence, Trump hinted at the possibility of a pardon a few hours later.
‘I’m following this very closely and I want to see it play out to its fullest because Roger has a very good chance of exoneration in my opinion,’ the president said. ‘I’d love to see it happen.’
But Trump stopped short of committing himself to pardoning Stone, saying, ‘I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States. I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do.’
The commutation was the latest example of Trump using his unlimited clemency power to pardon powerful men he believes have been mistreated by the justice system.
Trump went on a clemency spree in February, commuting the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, and pardoning former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, financier Michael Milken and several others.
Trump has also offered clemency to other political allies, including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was awaiting sentencing at the time, conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who had been convicted on campaign finance violations, and Conrad Black, a newspaper publisher convicted of fraud who had written a flattering book about the president.
Trump, however, has spent much more time trumpeting his decision to commute the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving life in prison for nonviolent drug offenses and who came to Trump’s attention after reality star Kim Kardashian West took up her cause.
Her story was featured in a Trump campaign Super Bowl ad.