On Friday, President Trump formally commuted the sentence of Roger Stone. Democrats immediately attacked the president and scorned the decision as a blow to the rule of law. Why is the left so upset about Trump’s use of his power in Stone’s case? Because Stone is just another pawn that Democrats tried to leverage to get to Trump. Once again, they failed.
The president has the power to grant clemency under Article 2, Section II of the U.S. Constitution, which states, “The President…shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” The two most common forms of clemency are pardons and commutations.
Essentially, a pardon forgives a crime in its entirety. It can occur before a sentence is served or after. A pardon also removes many of the restrictions or penalties that are imposed on other felons or ex-felons, such as the right to vote.
A commutation, on the other hand, is a total or partial reduction of a person’s sentence. It does not eliminate a conviction, nor does it imply that the person was innocent of the crime for which he or she was convicted. It also does not remove the restrictions imposed on other convicts or ex-convicts.
It is noteworthy that President Trump did not pardon Stone but commuted his sentence. Trump’s decision did not “forgive” Stone for the crime for which he was convicted, but simply reduced the sentence. Furthermore, not only was the president within his right to do so, but there was also ample justification for his decision given how Stone’s trial was conducted.
During the trial, for example, Stone was not permitted to call witnesses who could have possibly refuted many of the allegations against him. Additionally, the jury foreperson in Stone’s case was less than forthright about her activism in the Democratic Party and personal hatred of Stone. There remain serious questions regarding potential bias in the courtroom and whether a new trial should have been granted.
Despite these obvious abnormalities, some Democrats in Congress immediately attacked the president’s decision. Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted:
Commuting Roger Stone’s sentence is a terrible blow to justice and the rule of law. Through this act, Trump is saying: ‘If you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you obstruct for me, I will protect you.’ Another tragic day for American democracy.
Schiff also appeared on “The Rachel Maddow Show” and stated, “There are two systems of justice now in America, one for criminal friends of the president like Michael Flynn and now Roger Stone and one for everybody else.”
Not to be left out, Sen. Chuck Schumer also chimed in, releasing a statement that reads:
The American ideal of equal justice under the law is once again being undermined by a lawless president who regards the Justice Department as his personal plaything. By refusing to hold President Trump accountable, the Republican Party bears responsibility for his lawlessness.
Other Democrats echoed this. What is unusual about the anger coming from the left is the fact that other presidents have used their constitutionally granted clemency power without being personally attacked and chastised. For example, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Department of Justice statistics, former President Obama granted clemency to more people convicted of federal crimes than any chief executive in 64 years had.
Overall, Obama granted clemency to 1,927 individuals, a figure that includes 1,715 commutations and 212 pardons. That’s the highest total for any president since Harry S. Truman, who granted clemency 2,044 times – including 1,913 pardons, 118 commutations, and 13 remissions – during his nearly eight years in office.
Despite these numbers, one would be hard-pressed to find the type of pushback by those on the left concerning Obama’s use of his clemency power. Why, then, are Democrats attacking President Trump over the Stone commutation when other presidents including Obama used their clemency power without such fierce opposition?
Sadly, the answer is glaringly obvious and has been since the day Trump took office: Democrats want to hurt Trump. They want to remove him from office. They want to paint him as a lawless president who protects those close to him even when they break the law.
This isn’t about Roger Stone, per se. Democrats could care less about Stone, who was just another “pawn” they unsuccessfully tried to use to get at the president. After Stone’s sentence was commuted, attorney and long-time Democrat Andrew Weissmann (a prosecutor who worked on the Robert Mueller’s Russia probe) tweeted, “Time to put Roger Stone in the grand jury to find out what he knows about Trump but would not tell. Commutation can’t stop that.”
Not only was Weissmann’s tweet erroneous, but it also proved his deep-rooted desire to reach the president by way of Stone. As reported in National Review:
Stone is appealing his convictions. Weissmann, a longtime prosecutor who is intimately familiar with the appellate process, has to know that because Trump did not pardon Stone, the case is still on direct appeal. That means the convictions are not final as a matter of law. Stone thus maintains his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and cannot be forced to testify in the grand jury. He probably has scant hope of getting his convictions reversed, but he’s entitled to try.
Of course, Democrats will deny any nefarious motive. Rather, they will claim that Stone lied to protect Trump and that the president commuted the sentence of someone who “went to bat” for him.
This argument has two problems. First, the facts and circumstances from Stone’s case and trial reek of bias and potential juror misconduct. Second, many of the same Democrats also opposed the recent decision to drop charges against Michael Flynn despite the vast amount of exculpatory evidence that has been discovered and the fact that the FBI tried to set Flynn up.
President Trump made the right decision in this case. While some have criticized the president’s decision to grant clemency in Stone’s case, this criticism is not necessarily fair. While Stone was convicted by a jury of his peers, the circumstances surrounding his case and trial were questionable from the start.
As Sierra Marlee reports, “Stone received a sentence of 40 months in jail, and a $20,000 fine as the result of being found guilty of ‘process crimes stemming from an ostensibly illegitimate investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.’”
Additionally, President Trump did not forgive Stone, nor did Stone regain many of the rights that are lost by those who are convicted of similar crimes. Rather, Trump reduced his sentence based on how Stone was treated and the circumstances surrounding his case and subsequent trial.
The fact that Democrats are angry at the president’s decision is yet another sign of their abject failure. After all, Democrats used Stone as a pawn in an attempt to reach President Trump. Fortunately, the Trump saw through this charade and commuted his sentence, once again stymieing Democrats in Congress who hell-bent on removing him.