Washington: US President Donald Trump commuted the jail sentence of long-time aide Roger Stone after the former campaign adviser was sentenced to three years and four months in prison in connection with former special counsel Robert Muellers Russia probe, the media reported.
Friday’s decision came roughly an hour after an appeals court denied Stone’s motion to delay the start of his prison term, scheduled to begin on July 14, reports The Hill news website.
Stone, 67, had claimed he suffered from health conditions that put him at serious risk of dying if he went to that prison, which is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement on Friday evening, saying: Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the unjust sentence of Roger Stone, Jr.”
The statement described Stone as “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”.
McEnany said that Trump had signed an executive grant of clemency commuting his “unjust” sentence.
“Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man,” she added.
Stone, who has maintained his innocence and tried to appeal his conviction, was the last of six Trump associates to be charged in connection with Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia that dogged the President’s first two years in office, said The Hill news report.
Mueller did not find evidence to charge Trump campaign associates with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, but found that the campaign welcomed Moscow’s interference efforts.
Justice Department leadership moved to reduce Stone’s sentencing recommendation in February in a highly controversial move, leading all four career prosecutors working on his case to quit.
Stone was convicted last November by a jury in Washington, D.C., of all counts he was charged with, including lying to Congress in connection with its separate investigation into Russian interference, witness tampering and obstructing an official proceeding.
Friday’s development has been criticised as damaging to the rule of law and an abuse of presidential power.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who leads the congressional panel to which Stone lied, sharply criticized the decision as “among the most offensive to the rule of law and principles of justice”.
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said they would seek an “immediate briefing” from the White House counsel’s office on the circumstances surrounding Stone’s commutation.