And as expected, we got the Friday Night News Dump for the ages last night as Donald Trump eliminated Roger Stone's prison sentence just hours after Stone publicly asked Trump to do so, with Stone saying he was writing a book "and the ending wasn't finished yet."
President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. on seven felony crimes on Friday, using the power of his office to spare a former campaign adviser days before Mr. Stone was to report to a federal prison to serve a 40-month term.
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. “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” it said. “He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”
The commutation, announced late on a Friday when potentially damaging news is often released, was the latest action by the Trump administration upending the justice system to help the president’s convicted friends. The Justice Department moved in May to dismiss its own criminal case against Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. And last month, Mr. Trump fired Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney whose office prosecuted Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, and has been investigating Rudolph W. Giuliani, another of his lawyers.
Democrats quickly condemned the president’s decision, characterizing it as an abuse of the rule of law. “With this commutation, Trump makes clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and a leader of the drive to impeach Mr. Trump last year for pressuring Ukraine to incriminate his domestic rivals.
Two House committee chairmen quickly announced that they would investigate the circumstances of the commutation, suggesting that it was a reward for Mr. Stone’s silence protecting the president. “No other president has exercised the clemency power for such a patently personal and self-serving purpose,” said a statement issued by Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn B. Maloney, both New York Democrats.
Mr. Stone, 67, a longtime Republican operative, was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and possible ties to Russia. Prosecutors convinced jurors that he lied under oath, withheld a trove of documents and threatened an associate with harm if he cooperated with congressional investigators. Mr. Stone maintained his innocence and claimed prosecutors wanted him to offer information about Mr. Trump that he said did not exist.
As his time to report to prison neared, Mr. Stone openly lobbied for clemency, maintaining that he could die in prison and emphasizing that he had stayed loyal to the president rather than help investigators.
“He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him,” Mr. Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman on Friday shortly before the announcement. “It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”
In an interview with Fox News this week, he characterized himself as collateral damage in the quest to target Mr. Trump. “The president, who I’ve known for 40 years, has an incredible sense of fairness,” Mr. Stone said. “He is aware that the people trying to destroy Michael Flynn, now trying to destroy me, are the people trying to destroy him.”
While it was not clear when the two last spoke before the decision, Mr. Trump called Mr. Stone on Friday to deliver the news of his clemency personally, according to an official briefed on the conversation.
The president has used his power to issue pardons or commutations to a variety of political allies, supporters or people with connections to his own circle, like the former New York police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, the financier Michael R. Milken and former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois.
But Mr. Stone is the first figure directly connected to the president’s campaign to benefit from his clemency power. While Mr. Trump has publicly dangled pardons for associates targeted by investigators, that was a line he had been wary of crossing until now amid warnings from advisers concerned about the possible political damage.
Barr is grouchy of course, and is threatening to resign for the 957th time, but nothing will happen because nothing ever does. Barr has run roughshod this week over rule of law, with revelations that he bullied US attorney Geoffrey Berman out of his job because he was investigating Trump, revelations that came from Berman's own mouth as he testified under oath to Congress this week, but again, nothing ever happens.
So Stone is a free man as of this point, and Republicans in the Senate are already congratulating Dear Leader for his courage.
Barr should be impeached a dozen times over but of course, nobody's got time for that in the era of the Trump Depression and the COVID-19 pandemic.
So on we go with rule of law only applying to Trump's enemies. Friends get off.