Even amid the endless torrent of malevolent incompetence that characterizes the Boss Trump regime, some days stand out. One such was his Friday night commutation of career lowlife Roger Stone’s 40-month sentence for lying to Congress, obstructing a congressional investigation and witness tampering. The federal judge who handed it down described Stone’s crimes as “covering up for the president.”
Specifically, he obstructed the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In the immediate aftermath, Stone bragged to veteran journalist Howard Fineman about why he lied and who he was protecting. “He (Trump) knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”
Turn on him, that is, by fully describing his own and Trump’s conversations about WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, when Julian Assange served as a cat’s paw for Russian intelligence by publishing the Democratic National Committee’s stolen emails. Trump testified that he has no memory of talking with Stone about it, although two witnesses overheard them. He also swore that his son Donald Jr. never told him about meeting Kremlin operatives promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in Trump Tower.
If you believe that ...
Well, let’s move on.
During Attorney General William Barr’s Senate confirmation hearing, he was asked, “Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him?”
“No,” Barr answered, “that would be a crime.”
“A straight-up mob-style transaction,” as the inimitable Charles Pierce describes it, one worthy of “the fictional Tony Soprano or the all-too-real John Gotti.” Disorganized crime, you might call it; a cynical attack upon the rule of law. Even so, it’s a good bet that the attorney general has changed his opinion, and would likely quibble that a commuted sentence is not a pardon.
No, but in the Stone case, it’s actually worse. To accept a pardon, see, a convicted felon must admit guilt. By so doing, he surrenders his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and can be called in front of, say, a congressional committee, and required to talk under penalty of perjury.
Can’t have that, can we? So no prison time for Roger, although there are reasons to suspect he might have enjoyed certain aspects of incarceration. Back in 1996, the veteran political scam artist — he has a tattoo of Richard Nixon’s face on his back — claimed that Bill Clinton had made improper advances toward his wife. The National Enquirer turned up evidence that Stone himself had been advertising her charms in a magazine called Local Swing Fever:
“Hot, insatiable lady and her handsome body builder husband ... seek similar couples or exceptional muscular well-hung single men. She’s 40DD-24-36; he’s 195, trim, blond, muscular ... Prefer military, bodybuilders, jocks.”
That’s Roger Stone, voluptuary and fop. He later admitted everything to The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin. “I’m not guilty of hypocrisy,” Stone said. “I’m a libertarian and a libertine.”
Some years later, he founded an anti-Hillary organization called Citizens United Not Timid.
In short, he and Trump speak the same language. So it’s only natural that they would end up allies — even though Trump described Stone to Toobin as “a stone-cold loser ... He always tries taking credit for things he never did.”
But Stone did plenty during the 2016 campaign. A seeker of notoriety rivaling Trump himself, he communicated directly with “Guccifer 2,” the Russian intelligence operatives that hacked the DNC, even as he predicted WikiLeaks document dumps to any Republican who would listen.
Angered by the Trump commutation, special counsel Robert S. Mueller wrote a Washington Post column objecting that regardless of attempts to portray him as a victim, “Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so ...
“A jury determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks.”
For that matter, Stone was also convicted for threatening to kill a witness named Randy Credico and his beloved dog in a text message. Also like his patron in the White House, the man is infinitely cunning, but not real smart.
As for being a felon, far from being ashamed, Stone couldn’t be prouder. To him, it’s a badge of honor. He’s a made man in Boss Trump’s political mob.
It has been reported that what Sen. Mitt Romney called an act of “unprecedented, historic corruption” was vigorously opposed by William Barr. If so, the attorney general has resources. The Justice Department can empanel a grand jury, grant immunity to Roger Stone for previous acts and compel his testimony.
I am not holding my breath.