Roger Stone speaks in Fox News interview after Trump commutation

Roger Stone speaks in Fox News interview after Trump commutation
Donald Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone gushed over his political allies during an interview on Fox News on Monday, his first major television appearance since the president commuted Stone’s prison sentence on Friday.

Stone had been convicted of seven felony counts – including obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering in the congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election – and was sentenced to more than three years in jail. The president, in defending his commutation, said Stone was treated “very unfairly”.

The commutation was met with widespread criticism from Democrats and several Republicans, including Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey and Utah senator Mitt Romney, who called it an act of “historic corruption”.

Stone appeared on the Monday night interview show with Fox News’s Sean Hannity alongside his lawyer, David Schoen. “I have deep, deep affection for Donald Trump because I’ve known him for 40 years,” Stone said. “He’s a man of great justice and fairness, he’s a man of enormous courage … He saved my life. And, at least on paper, he gave me a chance to fight for vindication.”

On Saturday, special counsel Robert Mueller spoke out publicly for the first time in a year to defend his investigation against criticism from Trump and his supporters.

“We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its activities,” Mueller wrote. “The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. It also established that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

Stone has consistently denied any wrongdoing and argued that the investigation was a sham.

“I had a biased judge, I had a stacked jury, I had a corrupt jury forewoman,” Stone said, going on to thank Hannity and a host of public conservative figures including General Mike Flynn and Tucker Carlson. “And also Congressman Matt Gaetz from Florida who I hope to live long enough to live in the White House.”

Stone used his interview with Hannity to argue that the prison sentence would have effectively been a death sentence because of his ongoing asthma and the multiple inmates with Covid-19 cases.

“I’m 67 years old, I’ve had lifelong respiratory problems,” Stone said.

At another point in the interview, Stone said prosecutors wanted to use Stone to fuel an impeachment effort against the president.

“They wanted me to be the ham in their ham sandwich because they knew the Mueller report, particularly on Russia, it was a dud. It was a goose egg,” Stone said.

The Mueller report did not conclude that Trump directly coordinated with Russia or obstructed justice but it did not absolve him completely. The report did, however, argue that Trump may have played a role in Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 election. Nevertheless, Trump himself has argued that the fact that the report did not completely implicate him means he is innocent and the investigation is just an effort to undermine his presidency. Mueller himself has pushed back on that and noted that Trump could be charged after he left office.

Schoen spoke only briefly during the interview and, like his client, thanked Trump.

“This commutation was a great tribute to President Trump,” Schoen said, saying the president was “sending the message that the Mueller team was rotten to the core”. “The president saved a life here.”

Trump called Stone on Friday after commuting his sentence, a call Stone told ABC News was a “normal conversation” and “brief”.

Stone, a longtime friend and former campaign adviser to the president, was due to begin his sentence this week. The commutation does not erase Stone’s felony convictions but allows Stone to avoid setting foot in prison for his crimes.

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