President Trump commuted the sentence of convicted felon Roger Stone on Friday, not because of innocence but because Trump didn’t think the charges should have been brought in the first place. He claimed that since the overriding case was never fully pursued, these lesser charges shouldn’t have been. Pish posh. A crime along the way is still a crime.
Stone was convicted of one count of obstructing an official proceeding, five counts of making false statements to Congress and one count of witness tampering by encouraging another witness to lie for him. None of these charges requires, as Trump reasoned, an additional deed to be crimes. They’re crimes.
Trump once told The Washington Post, “I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people.”
Well, was Roger Stone a “best and most serious” person? How could Trump have known? How about looking at his longtime friend’s past performance?
Stone says he broke into politics in elementary school supporting John F. Kennedy. He said, “I remember going through the cafeteria line and telling every kid that Nixon was in favor of school on Saturdays. ... It was my first political trick.”
Stone recalled how he ran for election as senior class president of his high school. Stone said, “I built alliances and put all my serious challengers on my ticket. Then I recruited the most unpopular guy in the school to run against me.”
Barry Goldwater turned Stone into a conservative and, as a student at George Washington University, he hired on with Richard Nixon’s reelection committee.
Once on board, he contributed money to one of Nixon’s potential rivals in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance, then slipped the receipt to New Hampshire’s powerful conservative newspaper, the Manchester Union-Leader.
The Richard Nixon Foundation later clarified that Stone had been a 20-year-old junior scheduler on the 1968 campaign and wasn’t one of Nixon’s aides or advisers.
In 1977, Stone was elected chairman of the Young Republican National Federation in a campaign managed by his friend, Paul Manafort. Manafort, as you know, pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax and bank fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering and was given 90 months in jail. He was released to home confinement in May 2020 due to threat of COVID-19.
In 1980, Stone and Manafort formed a political consulting and lobbying firm where their international clients included Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. Both were known as brutal third-world dictators.
Stone resigned from his post as consultant to Sen. Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign after the National Enquirer reported that Stone placed ads and pictures on websites and swingers’ publications seeking sexual partners for himself and Nydia Bertran Stone, his second wife. Stone initially denied the report, but eventually admitted they were authentic in a 2008 interview with The New Yorker.
Stone was accused during a 2007 episode of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” of being the voice on an expletive-laden voicemail threatening Bernard Spitzer, father of Eliot Spitzer, with subpoenas. Trump is quoted at the time as saying, “They caught Roger red-handed, lying. What he did was ridiculous and stupid.” Stone denied the reports.
By 2016, Trump changed his mind and named Stone as an adviser to his campaign. Then Stone quit. Or was fired. Depends on whom you believe.
Finally, the part you know. Stone was accused of working with a foreign government to help Trump become president. That led to charges of obstructing an official proceeding, making false statements to Congress and a count of witness tampering.
He was tried and lawfully convicted.
Then Trump commuted Stone’s sentence.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted: “Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”
My sentiments exactly.