WASHINGTON – Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle reacted Friday night to news that President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime confidant Roger Stone. Democrats accused Trump of abusing his power while some Republicans applauded the move.
Stone is a Republican operative convicted of lying to Congress to protect the president’s campaign from an investigation into Russian election interference.
He was convicted of lying to investigators about efforts by Trump campaign aides to learn about WikiLeaks’ plans to release emails that Russian operatives stole from Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found Russia undertook a “sweeping” campaign to help Trump, but found no evidence he coordinated with the effort.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted that “Stone lied and intimidated witnesses to hide Trump’s exploitation of the Russian hack of his opponent’s campaign.”
“With Trump there are now two systems of justice in America: One for Trump’s criminal friends and one for everyone else,” the lead House impeachment manager continued.
The White House announced Trump’s decision late Friday, days before Stone was set to report to prison for a 40-month sentence handed down in February, a stunning downfall for a consultant who has advised campaigns for decades.
The campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said in a statement that Trump “has once again abused his power, releasing this commutation on a Friday night, hoping to yet again avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world.”
“He will not be shamed. He will only be stopped when Americans make their voice heard at the ballot box this fall. Enough,” the statement concluded.
Appearing on CNN Friday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that for Trump to be able to commute or issue a pardon for Stone “based on the crime assisting the president, is ridiculous.”
Pelosi was asked about U.S. Attorney General William Barr saying Wednesday the sentencing of Stone was fair.
“There ought to be a law,” she continued. “I’m recommending that we pass a law that presidents cannot issue a pardon if the crime that the person is in jail for is one that is caused by protecting the President, which this was.”
Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, posted: “The United States was founded on the rule of law. It seems our president has nothing but contempt for it.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., released a joint statement, writing, “Trump abused the powers of his office in an apparent effort to reward Roger Stone for his refusal to cooperate with investigators examining the President’s own conduct. No other president has exercised the clemency power for such a patently personal and self-serving purpose.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted Trump “abandoned the rule of law and made a mockery of our democracy.”
Before the clemency was officially announced, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted, “In my view it would be justified if President decided to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence. Mr. Stone is in his 70s and this was a non-violent, first-time offense,” incorrectly stating Stone’s age, who is 67-years-old.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted he supported Trump’s decision.
Jordan, a staunch Trump supporter on Capitol Hill, posted, “Like every president, President Trump has the constitutional right to commute sentences where he believes it serves the interests of fairness and justice.”
“Each week, Americans learn more about how the Obama-Biden Administration weaponized the intelligence community and Justice Department to target the Trump campaign,” he said.
Contributing: John Fritze, Kevin Johnson and Kristine Phillips