WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone on Friday, just days before he was set to report to prison.
Stone had been sentenced in February to three years and four months in prison for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. He was set to report to prison by Tuesday.
Stone told The Associated Press that Trump had called him earlier Friday to inform him of the commutation. Stone was celebrating in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with conservative friends and said he had to change rooms because there were "too many people opening bottles of Champagne here."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called Stone a "victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in 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," she said in a statement.
A commutation does not erase Stone's felony convictions in the same way a pardon would, but it would protect him from serving prison time as a result.
The action, which Trump had foreshadowed in recent days, reflects his lingering rage over the Russia investigation and is a testament to his conviction that he and his associates were mistreated by agents and prosecutors. His administration has been eager to rewrite the narrative of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, with Trump's own Justice Department moving in May to dismiss the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Stone, for his part, had been open about his desire for a pardon or commutation, appealing for the president's help in a series of Instagram posts in which he maintained that his life could be in jeopardy if was imprisoned during a pandemic. He had recently sought to postpone his surrender date by months after getting a brief extension from the judge.
Trump had repeatedly publicly inserted himself into Stone's case, including just before Stone's sentencing, when he suggested in a tweet that Stone was being subjected to a different standard than several prominent Democrats. He said the conviction "should be thrown out" and called the Justice Department's initial sentencing recommendation "horrible and very unfair."
"Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!" he wrote.
A longtime Trump friend and informal adviser, Stone had boasted during the campaign that he was in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through a trusted intermediary and hinted at inside knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans to release more than 19,000 emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee.
But Stone denied any wrongdoing and consistently criticized the case against him as politically motivated. He did not take the stand during his trial, did not speak at his sentencing, and his lawyers did not call any witnesses in his defense.
Trump also targeted those involved in the case. He retweeted a comment by Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano that the jury appeared to have been biased against Trump, and called out Judge Amy Berman Jackson by name, saying "almost any judge in the country" would throw out the conviction.