Federal prosecutors have recommended a seven- to nine-year prison sentence for President Trump’s friend and former campaign adviser Roger Stone, leading the president to say Tuesday that he can’t stand for such a sentence — and for many to advocate for Trump to pardon Stone.
“This is a horrible and very unfair situation,” Trump tweeted. “The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
Stone faces sentencing after having been found guilty of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness, and obstructing an official proceeding last November, charges that were brought forth following special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia.
Stone was the sixth Trump associate put on trial due to revelations made by Mueller; the list includes former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Cohen cooperated with prosecutors, which led to attacks from the president — Trump called Cohen a “Bad lawyer and fraudster” — but most, like Stone, seem to have stayed in the president’s good graces.
“I’ve known Roger over the years. He’s a nice guy,” Trump said last December. “A lot of people like him, and he got hit very hard, as did Gen. Flynn.”
More than any other associate on trial, Stone — who a journalist once called the “boastful black prince of Republican sleaze” — took a pugilistic approach to combating the charges he faced, posting an image of the presiding judge with what appeared to be crosshairs near her head to Instagram, and using the alt-right site Infowars to pass a plea for a pardon to the president.
Trump did not respond to that plea with any promises of a pardon, but did attack the trial in a manner similar to his Tuesday tweet shortly after Stone was found guilty, writing on Twitter, “So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself?”
The tenor of the president’s messaging has led to some speculation among legal experts that he may end up pardoning Stone — as well as pardon pressure from Trump allies and members of his base, who pushed #PardonRogerStone on Twitter Tuesday.
“The president won’t let his good buddy Roger Stone actually serve 9 years in jail,” national security lawyer Brad Moss tweeted. “The paperwork to commute the sentence of Stone and any sentence for Flynn likely is already drafted.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee responded to Trump’s Tuesday tweet by writing, “I truly hope that [Trump] grants clemency to Roger Stone and Gen Mike Flynn. Govt shouldn’t use power to destroy political enemies & deep state bullies did that to them & others.”
When asked whether he’d pardon Stone last December, Trump did not place doing so off the table, telling reporters he “hadn’t thought of it” before launching into a jeremiad about what a hard time his allies like Stone and Flynn have had.
“I think it’s very tough what they did to Roger Stone, compared to what they do to other people on their side,” the president said then.
Trump is obviously a somewhat unpredictable figure, making it difficult to predict whether he will pardon Stone. He has not issued any Mueller investigation related pardons so far. However, the language he uses when speaking about Stone does seem to mirror his defenses of allies he has pardoned, like disgraced former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio or his pardons of troops accused of war crimes, who the president said had been “really treated very unfairly.”
This would suggest he may issue that pardon. And given how popular Stone’s cause seems to be among Trump’s base, and among conservative leaders like Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, pressure on the president to issue the pardon appears likely to continue.