House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday slammed President Donald Trump’s decision to commute the prison sentence of his long-time friend 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.
Pelosi said that Congress will take action to “prevent this type of brazen wrongdoing” and that 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.”
The President has broad constitutional power to pardon and grant clemency, and Friday night the White House announced that Trump commuted Stone’s sentence days before he was set to report to a federal prison in Georgia.
Before the White House’s announcement late Friday, Pelosi told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that granting clemency for Stone is “appalling” and “ridiculous.”
Stone was convicted in November of seven charges, which included lying to Congress and witness tampering, as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Among the things he misled Congress about were his communications with Trump campaign officials, which prosecutors said Stone hid out of his desire to protect the President.
Trump’s move spares Stone from having to serve jail time after a judge sentenced him in February to 40 months in prison — but the guilty verdicts remain on the books.
The President defended his decision in his first public comments on the matter Saturday.
“Roger Stone was targeted by an illegal Witch Hunt that never should have taken place. It is the other side that are criminals, including Biden and Obama, who spied on my campaign – AND GOT CAUGHT!” the President wrote on Twitter.
Trump nor his allies have offered any proof that former President Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden had “spied on” Trump’s campaign.
The President appeared to be referring to court-authorized wiretaps of former Trump campaign official Carter Page — after he had left the campaign — although the Justice Department later said it had “insufficient” reason to continue the wiretaps.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told NBC News on Saturday that by granting clemency to Stone, Trump is 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, a Democrat, argued that such actions establish two standards of justice in the United States — one for Trump’s “criminal cronies” and another for everyone else.
He argued that legislation to curb future abuses needs to be passed, pointing to a bill he introduced in March 2019.
Schiff’s bill, the “Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act,” would require any evidence be provided to Congress if a president grants clemency to an individual tied to an investigation in which the President or family members is a witness, subject, or target
The bill was introduced amid Schiff’s concerns that Trump would “undermine” Mueller’s investigation by using his pardon powers and before Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was scheduled to be sentenced.