Debunking 12 lies and falsehoods from the White House statement on Roger Stone’s commutation
President Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of his longtime friend and political adviser Roger Stone on Friday, days before Stone was required to begin his 40-month prison term for lying to Congress about the Trump campaign’s ties to WikiLeaks.
The extraordinary act of clemency was announced by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She released a lengthy statement that was littered with lies and false claims about the Russia investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller and the details of Stone’s legal case.
Stone was convicted in November of lying to Congress, obstructing its inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and threatening a witness who could have exposed his lies. The commutation erases Stone’s prison sentence — but the guilty verdicts remain on the books.
Here’s a breakdown of 12 baseless claims from the White House statement.
STATEMENT FROM THE PRESS SECRETARY REGARDING EXECUTIVE GRANT OF CLEMENCY FOR ROGER STONE, JR.
“Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the unjust sentence of Roger Stone, Jr. Roger Stone is 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.”
- The Russia investigation was not a hoax, and it did not originate from Democrats or the media. The investigation began in July 2016 after the FBI received a tip about potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The FBI director at the time was James Comey, a Republican.
- Later, after Trump fired Comey in May 2017, the Trump-appointed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to continue the investigation. Rosenstein and Mueller are both Republicans. The Justice Department inspector general said the probe was legally opened in 2016.
“There was never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia. Such collusion was never anything other than a fantasy of partisans unable to accept the result of the 2016 election. The collusion delusion spawned endless and farcical investigations, conducted at great taxpayer expense, looking for evidence that did not exist.”
- Mueller’s final report did not conclude that there “was never any collusion.” Collusion is not a legal term. Mueller investigated whether any Trump associates criminally conspired with Russians regarding the election. Mueller said the investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
- The investigation did unearth dozens of contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russians, even though Trump repeatedly denied to the public that there was any communication before the election.
“As it became clear that these witch hunts would never bear fruit, the Special Counsel’s Office resorted to process-based charges leveled at high-profile people in an attempt to manufacture the false impression of criminality lurking below the surface. These charges were the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice.”
- There is no proof whatsoever that Mueller’s team brought charges because they were biased against Trump or had “malice” against his aides. Several federal judges ruled that the indictments Mueller’s team brought against Trump’s associates — including Stone — were legal and constitutional.
“This is why the out-of-control Mueller prosecutors, desperate for splashy headlines to compensate for a failed investigation, set their sights on Mr. Stone.”
- Mueller’s team was supervised by Rosenstein and later by acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, and in its final months by Attorney General William Barr. If Mueller or any member of his team broke Justice Department rules, they could have been reassigned or terminated by Rosenstein, Whitaker or Barr.
- Also, there’s nothing in the public record to support the claim that Mueller’s team “set their sights” on Stone in the late stages of the investigation. In fact, according to unsealed search warrants, Mueller obtained search warrants against Stone in summer 2017, months after taking over the investigation.
“Roger Stone is well known for his nearly 50 years of work as a consultant for high-profile Republican politicians, including President Ronald Reagan, Senator Bob Dole, and many others. He is also well known for his outspoken support for President Donald J. Trump and opposition to Hillary Clinton.”
- Stone’s support for Trump was not the reason he was charged. At Stone’s sentencing hearing, the judge said: “He was not convicted and is not being sentenced for exercising his First Amendment rights, his support of the President’s campaign or his policies. He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the President. He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.”
“Mr. Stone was charged by the same prosecutors from the Mueller Investigation tasked with finding evidence of collusion with Russia. Because no such evidence exists, however, they could not charge him for any collusion-related crime. Instead, they charged him for his conduct during their investigation. The simple fact is that if the Special Counsel had not been pursuing an absolutely baseless investigation, Mr. Stone would not be facing time in prison.”
- Mueller’s team was not only tasked with looking for potential Trump-Russia coordination. They were also authorized by Rosenstein to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from that investigation.” Stone’s lies to Congress about his efforts to help the Trump campaign capitalize on Russian meddling in the 2016 election was an obvious and natural avenue for Mueller’s investigates to pursue.
- The argument that “Stone would be not facing time in prison” if it wasn’t for an “absolutely baseless investigation” defies logic. First, the Russia investigation was determined by the Justice Department to be properly predicated. Second, if Stone hadn’t lied to Congress, it’s likely he wouldn’t have been charged at all. Mueller investigated other facets of Stone’s activities, but declined to bring charges.
“In addition to charging Mr. Stone with alleged crimes arising solely from their own improper investigation, the Mueller prosecutors also took pains to make a public and shameful spectacle of his arrest.”
- These crimes are not merely “alleged.” Stone was convicted by a jury on seven counts. He is appealing his conviction and maintains his innocence. But the crimes are no longer mere “allegations” by prosecutors. Also, the commutation doesn’t erase these convictions from Stone’s record.
“Mr. Stone is a 67-year-old man, with numerous medical conditions, who had never been convicted of another crime. But rather than allow him to surrender himself, they used dozens of FBI agents with automatic weapons and tactical equipment, armored vehicles, and an amphibious unit to execute a pre-dawn raid of his home, where he was with his wife of many years. Notably, CNN cameras were present to broadcast these events live to the world, even though they swore they were not notified—it was just a coincidence that they were tlere together with the FBI early in the morning.”
- Trump, Stone and their allies in right-wing media have repeatedly promoted the conspiracy theory that Mueller’s team leaked information about Stone’s arrest to CNN. This is not true.
- Mueller’s team produced documentation to the court that CNN was not tipped off, and CNN’s own reporting on its decision-making showed that stakeout at Stone’s home was based on a hunch. The lead prosecutor on the Stone case later testified under oath to Congress that Mueller’s team was not leaking to the media.
“Not only was Mr. Stone charged by overzealous prosecutors pursing a case that never should have existed, and arrested in an operation that never should have been approved, but there were also serious questions about the jury in the case. The forewoman of his jury, for example, concealed the fact that she is a member of the so-called liberal ‘resistance’ to the Trump Presidency. In now-deleted tweets, this activist-juror vividly and openly attacked President Trump and his supporters.”
- The judge rejected many of these arguments and ruled that there was no jury misconduct. Even after her ruling, Stone and Trump continued repeating the debunked claims that there was misconduct. In asking for a new trial, Stone made many of these same points about alleged bias but the judge rebuffed him.
- Also, it’s a stretch to describe Mueller’s team as “overzealous prosecutors.” They showed tremendous deference to Trump, allowing him to submit written testimony, declining to subpoena him for a deposition, and adhering to Justice Department guidelines that he cannot be indicted as president, even though that is not settled law. They also investigated, but declined to prosecute, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. for soliciting political dirt from Russians at the controversial Trump Tower meeting.
“Mr. Stone would be put at serious medical risk in prison.”
- The judge in this case questioned this claim when Stone made it earlier this month, trying to delay the prison sentence. Stone’s lawyers filed a motion saying that he has serious medical conditions, but the judge said their filing “does not identify any medical condition or conditions or contain any private medical information.”
- She noted that there is not a large coronavirus outbreak fat the federal prison in Georgia where Stone was supposed to serve his sentence. A federal appeals court upheld that ruling on Friday, clearing the way for Stone to report to prison. Trump’s commutation shields Stone from prison.
“He has appealed his conviction and is seeking a new trial. He maintains his innocence and has stated that he expects to be fully exonerated by the justice system. Mr. Stone, like every American, deserves a fair trial and every opportunity to vindicate himself before the courts.”
- The judge already ruled that the trial was fair and there was no misconduct by the jury. Stone is appealing his case and has raised many of the same issues about the jury in his filings with the appeals panel.
“The President does not wish to interfere with his efforts to do so. At this time, however, and particularly in light of the egregious facts and circumstances surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial, the President has determined to commute his 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!”
- Even Barr has said that this was a “righteous” prosecution and that the punishment he received, of 40 months in prison, “was fair.”
- One of the career Justice Department prosecutors testified to Congress that Stone received special treatment because he was a close ally and supporter of the President. This testimony, from prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, severely undercuts the claim that Stone was treated unfairly. Zelinsky quit the case in February after Barr intervened to water down the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for Stone. The original recommendation followed routine guidelines and called for seven to nine years in prison.