House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is threatening to strike back after President Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of his former campaign adviser and longtime associate Roger Stone on Friday.
According to Fox News, the White House announced Trump’s move Friday, just a few days before the 67-year-old Stone was set to report to prison. Now, however, Pelosi is promising that “Congress will take action to prevent this type of brazen wrongdoing” in the future.
“President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of top campaign adviser Roger Stone, who could directly implicate him in criminal misconduct, is an act of staggering corruption,” Pelosi wrote in a statement published Saturday, according to a report from Bloomberg News. She went on:
Legislation is needed to ensure that no President can pardon or commute the sentence of an individual who is engaged in a cover-up campaign to shield that President from criminal prosecution.
“Never any collusion”
Stone was convicted of lying to federal investigators in the infamous Trump–Russia collusion probe and sentenced to 40 months — more than three years — in prison in February, according to The New York Times. But in addition to questions about the probe itself, Stone and his supporters have argued that he wasn’t given a fair trial.
According to a Fox News report from February, the forewoman of Stone’s trial jury was a Democratic activist who had made anti-Trump and anti-Stone comments on social media.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany pointed to these allegations and others undermining the Trump–Russia probe in a statement defending Trump’s move to commute Stone’s sentence on Friday.
“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,” McEnany said, according to Fox. “There was never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia.”
“Make it a crime”
Not all Republicans are siding with the White House on Trump’s commutation, however. Anti-Trump Republican Mitt Romney, a Senator from Utah, called the move an example of “historic corruption.”
“[A]n American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” he lamented in a tweet.
But while Pelosi and Romney may disagree with Trump’s move, the Consitution protects Trump’s pardon power. A blog post cited by Bloomberg argued that Congress can go after allegations of pardon-related bribery, but there’s no evidence that such an arrangement existed.
“Congress could, for example, make it a crime for the president and the grantee to engage in a bribery scheme in which the grantee makes a personal payment or campaign contribution as part of an explicit quid pro quo arrangement,” two law professors, New York University’s Bob Bauer and Harvard’s Jack Goldsmith, wrote in February, according to Bloomberg.
Would Congress follow through? It seems unlikely, particularly given that the GOP remains in control of Congress’ upper chamber. Pelosi may not like what Trump did, but that doesn’t make it a crime.