It’s a now-familiar pattern with Trump and his administration. The President does or says something totally outrageous. Everyone freaks out for 24 hours. And then he does another outrageous thing, and the previous outrage is forgotten or cast to the side. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Except that the Stone commutation shouldn’t be so quickly forgotten or replaced by the latest outrage. Because it represents not just a misuse of presidential power but also will have long-term impacts on the ways in which future presidents consider their pardon and commutation powers.
Consider what Stone was convicted of by a jury of his peers: seven charges including lying to Congress about his contacts with Trump campaign officials in regards the release of a series of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s servers by the Russians and subsequently posted on the website WikiLeaks.
“On October 7, 2016, after WikiLeaks released its first set of then-Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, prosecutors say Stone received a text message from ‘an associate of the high-ranking Trump campaign official’ that said ‘well done,’ signaling that the Trump campaign was looped in on Stone’s quest for dirt on Democrats.
“The associate and the high-ranking campaign official are not named in the complaint, though the indictment describes how Stone told a reporter that what Assange had in the unreleased emails was good for the Trump campaign. Stone responded at the time, ‘I’d tell [the high-ranking Trump Campaign official] but he doesn’t call me back’.”
“An email matching that wording that was published by The New York Times shows that the official Stone referred to was Steve Bannon.
“After the October 7 releases, Stone boasted to ‘senior Trump Campaign officials’ that he had correctly predicted the data dump, prosecutors say.”
Stone repeatedly insisted publicly, and in testimony to Congress, that he had not attempted to contact to WikiLeaks and had not tried to serve as any sort of intermediary between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the release of the emails, which were aimed at harming Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
These are not small crimes. Let’s be very clear what Stone did: He lied to Congress about his efforts to find out what WikiLeaks had in terms of hacked emails that were designed to damage Clinton. He also threatened someone — with death — unless that person lied to Congress about the nature of his role in the backchanneling of WikiLeaks information.
“A jury later determined [Stone] lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress.”
“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,” read the official White House statement on the Stone commutation. “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.”
(Sidebar: From the odd capitalization to the tone of the statement, it seems clear that Trump wrote the statement or played a major role in its construction.)
Stunning stuff, with a deeply-problematic message underlying it all.
“Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”