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'Staggering corruption': Democrats rip Trump for commuting Roger Stone's prison sentence

"It shouldn't matter whether you're a Democrat or Republican. This should be offensive to you if you care about the rule of law," said Rep. Adam Schiff.
Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Top Democrats said Sunday that President Donald Trump's decision to commute the prison sentence of his longtime confidant Roger Stone was "an impeachable offense" and an example of "staggering corruption."

"It's staggering corruption, but I think it's important for people also to know that it's a threat to our national security," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said: "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, obstructed the investigation.

"It shouldn't matter whether you're a Democrat or Republican," he said. "This should be offensive to you if you care about the rule of law and you care about justice.

"And 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," Schiff added. "Other Americans, different standards. Friends of the president's, accomplices of this president, they get off scot-free."

Schiff said Trump's decision was "an impeachable offense," although he said Republicans would not convict Trump, just as they declined to remove him from office this year after he was impeached over his conduct toward Ukraine.

"And, indeed, of course, during that impeachment, we warned that if they left him in office, knowing that he committed impeachable offenses, that the damage he could do between now and Election Day could be severe," Schiff said. "And here we are now, 130,000 Americans dead, we had no idea just how bad the damage would be. But nonetheless, we knew the damage would be grave."

Trump commuted Stone's sentence Friday just before Stone was set to report to prison and shortly after a federal appeals court denied his emergency motion to delay his reporting. In a statement, the White House said Stone had "already suffered greatly" and "was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case."

Stone was sentenced in February to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress in its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. He had already received an extension on his reporting from the Bureau of Prisons amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department abruptly reduced its recommended prison sentence for Stone after Trump blasted its recommendation of seven to nine years. The change of heart led the four prosecutors handling Stone's case to resign from it, with one prosecutor quitting the Justice Department altogether.

"I have never seen political influence play a role in prosecutorial decision-making, with one exception: United States v. Roger Stone," one of the prosecutors, Aaron Zelinsky, told Congress last month.

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Stone, who for decades advised the president politically and briefly worked for his 2016 presidential campaign, was accused of lying to Congress about his efforts to connect with WikiLeaks to dig up dirt on 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Stone had claimed that he had no records of any approaches to WikiLeaks, but evidence at his trial showed otherwise.

Stone also insisted that he did not discuss any WikiLeaks efforts with the Trump campaign — claims that were refuted by evidence and testimony from former campaign officials Steve Bannon and Rick Gates. Stone was convicted of all seven counts.

People familiar with the matter told NBC News that some White House officials were against Trump's offering Stone clemency and were outraged by the decision. Among them were White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Attorney General William Barr, those people said, with a source saying the president was told "it was a big mistake."

While some Republicans supported Trump's offer of clemency, others were critical.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, on Saturday called it "unprecedented, historic corruption."

"An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president," Romney wrote on Twitter.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said Saturday that although he understands "the frustration with the badly flawed Russia-collusion investigation, in my view, commuting Roger Stone's sentence is a mistake."

"Any objections to Mr. Stone's conviction and trial should be resolved through the appeals process," he said.

In a tweet, Trump called Romney, who voted to convict him during impeachment, and Toomey "RINOs" — Republicans in name only.

Meanwhile, Stone, 67, said Trump "saved my life."

"And he's given me the opportunity to fight for vindication," he said.