USA

Robert Mueller condemns Trump for commuting Roger Stone’s sentence

The former special counsel Robert Mueller reappeared in public on Saturday to publicly defend his two-year investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. And also to chastise Donald Trump’s decision to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence.

Mueller wrote an opinion article for the Washington Post titled “Roger Stone remains a convicted felon, and rightly so”.

“The work of the special counsel’s office – its report, indictments, guilty pleas, and convictions – should speak for itself,” he wrote.

“But I feel compelled to respond both too broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office …

“Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”

The partially released Mueller report in April 2019 described Russian efforts to tamper with the election and the Trump campaign’s receptivity to certain “Russian offers of assistance to the campaign”.

It outlined actions by Trump that may have amounted to obstruction of justice and concluded: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Mueller wrote: “The special counsel’s office identified two principal operations directed at our election: hacking and dumping Clinton campaign emails, and an online social media campaign to disparage the Democratic candidate.

“We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel – Stone among them. We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government …

“The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. [And] that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

Trump has attempted to discredit Mueller and his investigations on multiple occasions.

Mueller has kept his counsel since he testified in Congress in July last year.

This led to the historic impeachment of the president, and Trump’s ultimate acquittal by the Senate earlier this year.

On Saturday Mueller wrote: “Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy. It was critical that they be investigated and understood.”

Trump Commuted The Sentence Of His Close Ally Roger Stone

Trump commuted Roger Stone’s sentence on Friday even though the US attorney general previously declared Stone’s conviction “righteous”.

Roger Stone was the president’s former campaign adviser and was due on Tuesday to begin a sentence of three years and four months in jail.

Stone, 67, was convicted in November 2019 of obstructing a congressional investigation into the possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia to win the 2016 election.

In the process of the Trump-Russia investigation, which led to several indictments, Mueller and his team unveiled the evidence of communications between Stone and WikiLeaks related to the release of hacked Democratic party emails.

Trump said on Friday that Stone was targeted in an “illegal witch-hunt”, which drew the global politics professor and political columnist Brian Klass to tweet on Saturday: “This is a complete lie. Roger Stone committed a series of well-documented crimes that are not seriously contested.”

He added: “This is what despots do: wield the law like a weapon to attack political opponents and protect loyal cronies. It’s a disgraceful, dark day for American democracy.”

Stone’s conviction came in November 2019 of seven crimes, including obstruction of justice, lying to Congress, and witness tampering in the congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Reactions From All Sides

Speaking on Sunday to CNN’s State of the Union, the House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats in the House will pursue legislation to restrict clemency powers related to the president’s own conduct. “It’s a threat to our national security,” she said.

Both sides of the political argument in the US came out on Saturday with heavy criticism.

Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House intelligence committee – the congressional panel Stone was convicted of lying to about aspects of the Trump-Russia investigation – called the decision “destructive of the criminal justice system and the rule of law” on Saturday morning.

Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican of Utah, described the decision as “unprecedented, historic corruption”.

“Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” he tweeted.

Senator Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, a Republican, was another politician who called the move to commute the sentence a mistake.

Toomey held in high regard the backing that US attorney general William Barr gave for the Stone prosecution and call for it to be upheld. Barr, who has faced allegations of using the justice department to defend the president and his associates, had said earlier this month that he regarded the prosecution of Stone as “righteous”.