President Donald Trump has not written off pardoning Roger Stone.
In remarks to reporters Tuesday, the president expressed sympathy for the eccentric political operative as well as Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, The Epoch Times reported. Both men are awaiting sentencing for crimes stemming from Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe, which Trump blasted as a “hoax” that dealt “very unfair” treatment to them both.
“Am I going to pardon him? Well, I hadn’t thought of it,” Trump said at Mar-A-Lago, where he’s spending the holidays. “I think it’s very tough what they did to Roger Stone compared to what they do to other people on their side.”
A pardon for Stone?
Known for his street-smart persona and love of Richard Nixon, Stone was charged with witness tampering, obstruction, and lying to Congress last month over his communications with WikiLeaks concerning Russian hacks of Hillary Clinton’s emails, according to NBC News. He awaits sentencing in February.
Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is awaiting sentencing in January.
To many supporters of the president, both men are sympathetic figures — victims, even — of a “coup” that targeted allies of the president while letting Democrats like Hillary Clinton off the hook for criminal offenses. Trump riffed on that theme Tuesday, according to Fox, saying that Stone and Flynn were railroaded by a “hoax” with no legal basis — even as he pointed out that Stone, who left the Trump campaign in 2015, was not involved in his campaign “in any way, other than the very, very beginning before I think I announced.”
“I’ve known Roger over the years. He’s a nice guy. A lot of people like him, and he got hit very hard, as did Gen. [Michael] Flynn, as did a lot of other people,” Trump said. “They got hit very, very hard and now they’re finding out that it was a big hoax. They’re finding out that it was a horrible thing. They were spied on, my campaign was spied on.”
Trump was referring to the recently released inspector general (IG) report, which arguably bolstered his claims that the Mueller investigation was a “witch hunt.” The report revealed that the FBI withheld exculpatory evidence to continue spying on former Trump campaign staffer Carter Page, and that the infamous Christopher Steele dossier played an “essential” role in spying on the Trump campaign despite its unreliability, which was kept hidden from the FISA court.
Fighting back against “evil”
At age 67, Stone could spend his autumn years in prison if he receives even a fraction of the maximum penalty of 50 years. Trump previously expressed sympathy for Stone upon his conviction, lamenting a “double standard” that let “Crooked Hillary, [James] Comey, [Peter] Strzok” and others off the hook while punishing his associates.
He tweeted in November: “So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. Well, what about [Lisa] Page, [Andrew] McCabe, [John] Brennan, [James] Clapper, Shifty [Adam] Schiff, [Bruce] Ohr [and his wife] Nellie, Steele [and] all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn’t they lie? […] A double standard like never seen before in the history of our [c]ountry?”
Many of the president’s supporters have also pointed to the January pre-dawn raid on Stone’s home as excessive use of force, as well as an example of possible malice toward Stone and Trump in the Mueller investigation. Expanding on the “witch hunt” theme, Trump went on to say Tuesday that he hopes to rid the FBI of “evil” actors and “dirty cops” corrupting law enforcement.
“But these were dirty people, these were bad people, these were evil people. And I hope that someday I’m going to consider it my greatest, or one of my greatest achievements, getting rid of them,” he said, “because we have no place in our country for people like that.”