President Donald Trump confirmed rumors of a potential pardon on Friday when he moved to commute the prison sentence of his longtime associate and political adviser Roger Stone, who was sentenced to 40 months on charges including lying to federal investigators and witness tampering stemming from the infamous Robert Mueller-led Trump–Russia collusion probe, as The Washinton Post reported.
The move by Trump sparked outrage among Democrats — and it didn’t take long for the president’s usual detractors to come forward with their critical opinions. According to the Washington Examiner, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) told ABC News on Sunday that “anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country” should be “nauseated” by the president’s actions.
“This should be offensive”
Schiff’s remarks came on Sunday’s episode of This Week, where host George Stephanopoulos asked the California Democrat to respond directly to the president’s move.
“I think anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country is nauseated by the fact that the president has commuted the sentence of someone who willfully lied to Congress, covered up for the president, intimidated witnesses, [and] obstructed the investigation,” Schiff told Stephanopoulos, according to the Examiner.
He went on: “It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. This should be offensive to you if you care about the rule of law and you care about justice.”
Of course, the Constitution gives Trump broad powers to grant clemency as he sees fit — and Stone made a convincing case. In addition to claims about bias from the judge and jury in his case, the 67-year-old likened a prison term to a “death sentence” for him amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly given his history of asthma, as NBC News reported.
But Schiff, for his part, didn’t seem swayed by Stone’s pleas. “The president, through this commutation, is basically saying if you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you have my back, then I will make sure that you get a Get Out of Jail Free card,” he told ABC, according to the Examiner.
“A free man”
Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have responded to Trump’s move with promises of legislative action. Pressed by Stephanopoulos on whether such laws would be constitutional, Schiff said “there are things that we can do to discourage the abuse of the pardon power.”
“I introduced a bill months ago, for example, that would say that if the president pardons someone in a case in which they’re a witness, subject, or target, the complete investigative files in that case will be provided to Congress, so that Congress can evaluate whether this is yet another act of obstruction of justice,” Schiff told This Week in video posted to the show’s Twitter feed.
But as much as Schiff may want a smoking gun to take Trump down, he’s failed at that feat plenty of times before. Meanwhile, the White House is doubling down on why they say this was a good move by the commander in chief.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement Friday that Stone was “charged by overzealous prosecutors [pursuing] a case that never should have existed, and arrested in an operation that never should have been approved.”
“Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” McEnany added. “He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”