Long-time Republican schemer and self-described “dirty trickster”, Roger Stone, was sentenced this afternoon to more than three years in prison for lying under oath to defend President Trump. Stone, who worked on both Nixon and Reagan’s presidential campaigns, has been described by many as the chief architect of Trump’s 2016 campaign, and has accrued notoriety for his outlandish behaviour and fashion sense, not to mention his hand in shaping the current PAC and lobbying system.
Sounds of trepidation rather than triumph, however, are being heard from the Democrat camp, mainly due to an ominous tweet pinned to Donald Trump’s twitter feed. The video Trump retweeted is an excerpt from the Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight, in which Carlson slams the conviction of Stone as “completely immoral.” The pundit goes on to suggest that pardoning Stone would be the “right thing to do.”
These remarks have outraged the Democratic establishment, with former impeachment manager Adam Schiff warning that pardoning Stone would be a “breathtaking act of corruption.” As Carlson points out in the aforementioned clip, Trump yesterday granted clemency to eleven people, mainly white-collar criminals and disgraced political agents, so Trump may be signalling that he is willing to continue the trend of high profile pardons.
The long trial leading up to Stone’s conviction and sentencing has been highly eventful and the subject of huge media attention, especially from conservative outlets. Almost exactly a year ago, Stone was summoned to court to apologise for posting a picture on Instagram of the judge presiding over his case, with a crosshair photoshopped onto the image. Judge Amy Berman Jackson responded by reprimanding Stone with a full gagging order, which was immediately pounced on by right wing media as a partisan form of censorship.
A further development was the unprecedented intervention by Attorney General William Barr, who instructed the prosecutors to cut the recommended sentence of seven to nine years to its current length after Trump tweeted in protest of the punishment. Four government lawyers quit in protest, and a seemingly overwhelmed Barr later complained that Trump’s tweets made it “impossible to do my job.” Many saw this move as the most blatant example of cronyism and corruption yet displayed by the Attorney General, and as a highly alarming threat to the rule of law.
Considering the fact that Trump has not explicitly said that he will pardon Stone, it seems unlikely that he will go through with it, and may just be attempting to rile up the Democrats in order to make them appear hysterical. However, considering his most recent brush with the law, namely the acquittal in the Senate that concluded the impeachment process, Trump may be emboldened to take a chance with Stone, one of his closest former advisors. He seems headed for a second term regardless, with few threats to his popular momentum appearing to hurt him, so he may stick his neck out and commit one of the most outrageous acts of legal manipulation ever seen from a sitting President. If so, the consequences may be explosive.
Written by Labour writer, Max Ingleby