WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump called Roger Stone to inform his longtime political confidant that he would commute his sentence for crimes related to the Russia investigation, Stone told The Associated Press on Friday, just days before he was set to report to prison.
The White House later confirmed the commuting of the sentence in a statement, saying Stone was a victim of the Russia “hoax.”
The move, though short of a full pardon, is sure to alarm critics who have long railed against the president’s repeated interventions in the nation’s justice system.
“The president told me he thought my trial has been unfair,” Stone told the AP in a phone call from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Stone said he expressed his gratitude and was popping Champagne.
Stone had been sentenced in February to three years and four months in prison for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. He was set to report to prison by Tuesday.
A commutation would not erase Stone’s felony convictions in the same way a pardon would, but it would protect him from serving prison time as a result.
The action, which Trump had foreshadowed in recent days, reflects his lingering rage over the Russia investigation and is a testament to his conviction that he and his associates were mistreated by agents and prosecutors. His administration has been eager to rewrite the narrative of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, with Trump’s own Justice Department moving in May to dismiss the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Stone, for his part, had been open about his desire for a pardon or commutation, appealing for the president’s help in a series of Instagram posts in which he maintained that his life could be in jeopardy if imprisoned during a pandemic. He had recently sought to postpone his surrender date by months after getting a brief extension from the judge.
Trump had repeatedly publicly inserted himself into Stone’s case, including just before Stone’s sentencing, when he suggested in a tweet that Stone was being subjected to a different standard than several prominent Democrats. He railed that the conviction “should be thrown out” and called the Justice Department’s initial sentencing recommendation “horrible and very unfair.”
“Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” he wrote.
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