Former special advocate Robert Mueller criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of his longtime friend and campaign adviser Roger Stone in a Washington Post editorial on Saturday, saying that despite his pardon, Stone ” remains a criminal convict, and rightly so. ”
Trump commuted Stone’s sentence Friday – just days before he started serving a 40-month prison sentence after being found guilty of lying to lawmakers who were investigating Russia’s influence over 2016 elections. This belief stems from the work done by Mueller’s team in its investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Stone was convicted on a total of seven counts, which also included the falsification of witnesses and the obstruction of the proceedings of a committee of Congress.
Mueller’s categorical defense of the findings of his inquiry into Stone marked a clear break from his story of avoiding discussing his inquiry or presenting his findings in discreet terms, and prompted Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to say that he will allow Mueller to testify before the Senate, which the Democrats on this committee have long called for.
Trump continued to defend Stone on Saturday, tweeting that his friend had been “targeted by an illegal witch hunt that should never have taken place.”
But in his editorial, Mueller refuted the president’s remarks and systematically exposed Stone’s numerous violations of the law – including the way he lied to avoid revealing his ties to the Russian government:
Congress also investigated and requested information from Stone. A jury then determined that he had repeatedly lied to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary at WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying that he contacted the Trump campaign when WikiLeaks was released. He has in fact repeatedly updated senior campaign officials on WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him at the Stonewall convention.
The jury finally convicted Stone of obstructing a Congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress and forging a witness. Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to jail. But his conviction remains.
Mueller also defended the women and men who conducted the investigations and prosecutions, writing that they acted “with the utmost integrity” and operated “solely on the basis of fact and law”.
Mueller’s decision to intervene in the public debate that followed Trump’s switch diverged from his general tendency to avoid defending his investigation and from his apparent preference for having the report produced by his team speak for itself. Zack Beauchamp de Vox described Mueller as having “such a circumscribed view of his own responsibilities that he did not want to answer questions beyond mere statements or quotation from the full report” when he testified before the House representatives last July:
Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee and the Standing Intelligence Subcommittee, saying very little substance beyond what was already contained in the text of his report. He answered questions with monosyllables or requests for clarification. According to an NBC count, Mueller “deviated or refused to answer questions 198 times” during the two three-hour hearings.
Mueller did not detail what motivated his decision to write the opinion letter, but it comes at a time when Democrats – as well as some Republicans – have expressed deep concern over the extraordinary precedent that Trump sets by granting leniency to his friend and to someone who, according to prosecutors, lied to protect the president.
Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst for CNN and the New Yorker, argued that with Stone’s switching, Trump had entered dangerous new territory.
“Trump had not, until now, used graces and commutations to reward defendants who held incriminating information against him,” he writes in the New Yorker. “Stone’s switching isn’t just a gift for an old friend – it’s a reward for Stone to keep his mouth shut during the Mueller investigation. It is, in other words, corruption in addition to cronyism. “
Trump receives pressure for what could be unprecedented corruption
Trump’s decision to forgive Stone was notable even in the midst of his continuing tendency to use his powers as president to reward those who are loyal to him (and punish those who he says are not). Experts say the frequency with which Trump pardoned those he considers allies – such as when he pardoned or commuted the sentences of 11 people who had an internal connection to him or were promoted on Fox News in February – seems to be historically unique.
“Modern presidents have tainted leniency because of decommissioning (the two bushes) and occasional interested grants (Clinton),” Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Lawrence law school, told NPR Thomas. “However, no president [until Trump] has already used leniency mainly to reward friends and political allies. ”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday condemned Trump’s decision to firmly drop Stone’s sentence.
“It is staggering corruption, but I think it is important that people also know that it is a threat to our national security,” Pelosi told CNN. State of the Union. “The whole process of impeachment was about our national security. The reason we are at the Supreme Court in these cases was to find out about the connection with Russia, and we will continue to do so. This case concerned the Russian connection. “
Home Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) told NBC News Saturday that Trump’s switch sends the clear signal that “If you’re lying for the president, if you’re covering the president, if you withhold incriminating evidence for the president, you get a pass from Donald Trump. “
Schiff argued that the situation speaks to the urgency of passing a bill he introduced in 2019 – the abuse of the forgiveness prevention law, which requires the president to present evidence to Congress when ” he grants leniency to someone in an investigation in which the president or a family member is a witness, subject or target.
Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who demonstrated his willingness to break away from his party in his criticism of the president, said Trump’s decision was “unprecedented historic corruption.”
He was joined in this review by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), who said in a statement: “In my opinion, commuting Roger Stone’s sentence is a mistake,” adding: “Earlier this week, the Attorney General Bill Barr said he thought Mr. Stone’s prosecution was “fair” and “appropriate” and the sentence he received was “fair”. Any objections to Mr. Stone’s conviction and trial should be resolved through the appeal process. “
Critics of Republican senators pushed Trump on Twitter on Saturday, calling them Republicans by name only.
Do Pat Toomey and Mitt Romney of RINO have a problem with the fact that we caught Obama, Biden and Company illegally spying on my campaign? Do they care if Comey, McCabe, Page and her lover, Peter S, the whole group, were running endemic, wild and uncontrolled – lying and running away all along? NO!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 12 juillet 2020
Trump’s ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, followed this tweet with one of his own, indicating that Mueller would be invited to testify before his committee.
“Apparently, Mr. Mueller is willing – and also capable – to defend the Mueller investigation through an oped in the Washington Post,” Graham wrote on Twitter. “The Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee previously asked Mr. Mueller to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about his investigation. This request will be granted. ”
It is unclear, however, whether Mueller will ultimately testify, or whether op-ed will be his last word on the matter.