WASHINGTON - Two leading U.S. Democrats on Sunday condemned President Donald Trump’s clemency for his long-time friend Roger Stone, wiping out his 40-month prison sentence for political wrongdoing, saying it was a perversion of American legal standards.
“It's staggering corruption,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence during an interview on CNN.
“People should know this isn't just about lying to Congress, that means lying to the American people, and witness tampering and the rest,” Pelosi said of the seven convictions a jury handed down against Stone. “It's about our national security.”
U.S. presidential power for overseeing pardons and commutations is virtually unlimited, but Pelosi said legislation will be introduced that would in the future limit a president from commuting, pardoning or offering clemency to anyone who is convicted of a crime that affects the president's behavior and culpability.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who oversaw impeachment proceedings against Trump last year, was a guest Sunday on ABC News’s “This Week” show.
“Anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country is nauseated by the fact that the president has commuted the sentence of someone who willfully lied to Congress, covered up for the president, intimidated witnesses, obstructed the investigation,” he said. “It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, this should be offensive to you if you care about the rule of law and you care about justice.”
Schiff, a longtime Trump critic, said Stone “lied to cover up and protect the president.”
Schiff said that Trump, with his Friday night action to keep Stone from heading to prison, “is basically saying through this commutation, ‘If you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you have my back, then I will make sure that you get a get-out-of-jail-free card.’
“Other Americans? Different standard,” Schiff said. “Friends of the president, accomplices of the president, they get off scot-free.”
Some Republicans join frey
Two Republican senators, Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey, on Saturday also attacked Trump’s action.
Romney, who lost the 2012 presidential election to former President Barack Obama, called Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence “unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”
Toomey, from the eastern state of Pennsylvania, said Trump “clearly has the legal and constitutional authority to grant clemency for federal crimes,” but called his action a “mistake.” Toomey said Stone “was duly convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of a congressional investigation conducted by a Republican-led committee.”
Trump, in a tweet Saturday night, called Romney and Toomey “RINO’S,” an acronym that stands for “Republicans in Name Only.”
“Stone was treated very unfairly,” Trump said Saturday night about his commutation of Stone's prison sentence. The president blamed the jury forewoman and the judge and said Stone “should have had another trial.”
One Republican lawmaker, Senator Lindsey Graham, said in advance of Trump’s action, “In my view it would be justified. Mr. Stone is in his 70s and this was a nonviolent, first-time offense.”
Stone is actually 67 years-old.
A jury convicted Stone of seven offenses, including witness tampering and lying to federal authorities, and a judge sentenced him to 40 months in prison. He was to report to prison this week before Trump commuted the sentence, but did not pardon him, which left his convictions in place.
The clemency for Stone was only the 36th Trump has granted, with 180 denied. Many of those granted by Trump have been to political supporters of his or suggested by people he knows, rather than being processed through normal pardon procedures overseen by the U.S. Justice Department.
At the same points in their presidencies, 3½ years after taking office, Trump’s six predecessors had acted on hundreds or thousands of petitions for clemency.
One juror in Stone’s trial, Seth Cousins, told the Washington Post, that it was a “shocking act of corruption for the president to commute the sentence of a person convicted of lying to protect him. The fact remains that Roger Stone is a convicted felon, that he was found guilty of seven counts of lying to Congress and intimidating a witness and of impeding an investigation. Nothing that Trump or anyone has done or can do changes that fact.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who led the investigation into whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign in 2016 to help him win, wrote in a Post opinion article that the probe was of "paramount importance" and asserted Stone "remains a convicted felon, and rightly so."
After a lengthy probe, Mueller’s investigation did not find clear evidence that Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election and did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. In any event, long-standing Justice Department policy says sitting U.S. presidents cannot be charged with criminal offenses.
Late Friday, Trump spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said that Trump granted Stone clemency “in light of the egregious facts and circumstances surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest and trial.
“Roger Stone is 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,” she said. “There was never any collusion between the Trump campaign, or the Trump administration, with Russia. Such collusion was never anything other than a fantasy of partisans unable to accept the result of the 2016 election.
“The collusion delusion spawned endless and farcical investigations, conducted at great taxpayer expense, looking for evidence that did not exist,” McEnany concluded.