US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has denounced President Donald Trump’s decision to commute the prison sentence of his long-time ally and political adviser Roger Stone as “an act of staggering corruption.”
“President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of top campaign advisor Roger Stone, who could directly implicate him in criminal misconduct, is an act of staggering corruption,” Pelosi said in a statement on Saturday.
The House speaker added that she plans to support a bill that curbs the ability of US presidents to grant clemency or commute criminal sentences.
“Congress will take action to prevent this type of brazen wrongdoing. Legislation is needed to ensure that no president can pardon or commute the sentence of an individual who is engaged in a cover-up campaign to shield that president from criminal prosecution,” she underlined.
Pelosi had earlier said in an interview with CNN that Trump’s granting clemency for Stone was “appalling” and “ridiculous.”
Stone, a Republican operative and confidant of Trump, was convicted in November of 2019 by a jury in Washington, DC, on all counts including lying to Congress in connection with the Russia investigation, witness tampering and obstructing an official proceeding.
Trump commuted Stone’s prison sentence on Friday, less than a week before Stone was about to report to serve time. The move spares Stone from having to serve jail time after a judge sentenced him in February to 40 months in prison.
Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, told NBC News on Saturday that Trump was sending the message “if you lie for the president, if you cover up for the president, if you withhold incriminating evidence for the president, you get a pass from Donald Trump.”
Schiff underlined that legislation to curb future abuses of presidential power needs to be passed.
Later on Saturday, another Republican, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, censured Trump’s decision as a “mistake” and said that the president’s power to grant clemency for federal crimes “should be used judiciously and very rarely.”
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, the top lawyer who led the Russia investigation, defended his teams’ findings on Stone after Trump moved to commute his sentence.
The Russia investigation, which Trump has routinely called a “hoax,” did not conclude that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, but detailed a series of contacts and found the campaign welcomed Russia’s efforts.
Stone was the last of six Trump associates to be charged in connection with Mueller’s investigation.
Mueller described Stone as a “central figure” in the investigation because of his communications with Russian intelligence officials, whom the investigation determined were actively seeking to influence the 2016 election through WikiLeaks.
The Mueller investigation found that Stone was allegedly aware that WikiLeaks was planning to release emails from former secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, viewing the leaks as beneficial to the Trump campaign.
Stone lied to Congress when he denied that he worked with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign to coordinate the release of the emails, among other things