President Donald Trump on Friday commuted the prison sentence of former campaign aide Roger Stone, sparing his longtime adviser from having to report to prison next week.
“Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” the White House said in a statement. “He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”
The announcement came shortly after a federal appeals court denied Stone’s emergency motion to delay his July 14th surrender date.
Asked earlier on Friday if he planned on intervening in Stone’s case, Trump said, “I’ll be looking at it. I think Roger Stone was very unfairly treated as were many people.”
Stone told SiriusXM Thursday he was hoping for a commutation so he could continue fighting the charges in court. “I would still have to battle it out on appeal, which frankly I want to do, because I want an opportunity to clear my name,” he said.
Some of Trump’s advisers urged him not to intervene in the case at all for fear it could hamper his re-election bid, NBC News reported earlier Friday.
Stone was sentenced in February to serve 40 months in prison for lying to Congress during the investigation of Russian election meddling. After the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation, the Bureau of Prisons gave him an additional 60 days to surrender, until June 30. He has been in home confinement in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
He said in the spring that any period in a federal prison would amount to a death sentence, given the coronavirus pandemic and his health problems: “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.
Last month, he asked Federal District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson for permission to delay his prison reporting date yet again to late September, in view of COVID-19 infections in prisons. She denied the request and ordered him to report to a federal prison in Jessup, Georgia, by July 14. “Mr. Stone is entitled to no more and no less consideration than any other similarly situated convicted felon,” she said.
Stone appealed the ruling in attempt to buy more time.
Trump had said in remarks on the day of Stone’s Feb. 20th sentencing that he had no immediate plans to intervene in his case. “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. Because I’d love to see Roger exonerated, and I’d love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly,” he said then.
But as Stone’s surrender date approached, Trump’s public stance changed. After a right-wing activist tweeted that Stone would serve more time behind bars than “99% of these rioters destroying America,” Trump responded, “No. Roger was a victim of a corrupt and illegal Witch Hunt.” “He can sleep well at night!” he said in the June 4 tweet.
At Stone’s sentencing, Judge Jackson pushed back against claims from Trump and his supporters that his prosecution was biased.
“There was nothing unfair, phony or disgraceful about the investigation or the prosecution,” she said, adding that Stone “was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
Stone’s case had become a political hot potato at the Department of Justice. The department abruptly reduced its recommended prison sentence for Stone following a Trump tweet that called the original recommendation of 7-9 years “disgraceful!“