In the early 1970s, I had a modest association with Roger Stone, when we both worked at the White House. I did not particularly like him then—and have found no reason to change my view in the ensuing years.
Stone is among those who seem to believe that politics – by its very nature – is a sleazy business, and the best route to success is to be … well … sleazy. Ironically, men like Stone are not responding to sleaziness inherent in the profession but are creating the examples that give politics its bad name.
This is not a one-party problem. One of the granddaddies of dirty tricks was carried out by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. I am referring to the creation of that totally phony dossier that was used against the Trump presidency. Quite simply, agents of the Clinton campaign paid big money to have former British intelligence agents collude with Russian operatives to manufacture a false document – and then pass it on to cohorts in the FBI to be used to trigger a bogus investigation that played out for most of the Trump presidency.
With my negative opinion of Stone, I find it an unhappy obligation to come to his defense – even partially.
If not the victim of prosecutorial abuse, Stone was most certainly the victim of overly zealous and politicized prosecution. The prosecutorial team was composed of lawyers who were significantly biased against President Trump. They were at least in the second ring of those leading the #NeverTrump Resistance Movement’s “insurance policy” intended to bring down the Trump presidency from the very onset.
This means that the prosecutors in the case were NOT looking for justice, but to make Stone another millstone (no pun intended) around the neck of the President. In the parlance of the Justice Department, they were going to “over book” stone – and then seek to get a sentence that would make any of his crimes look like Class A felonies.
After obtaining convictions on all the charges – some legitimate and others dubious, to say the least – they request an unprecedented 10-year in prison – potentially a life sentence considering Stone’s age. The prosecution team went ballistic when the higher-ups in the Justice Department withdrew the prosecutors’ recommendation – leaving the decision on sentencing totally up to the judge without any specific recommendation.
The excessiveness of the original prosecutors’ request was evident when Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down a 40 month sentence – far below what the prosecutors originally requested.
Stone was due to enter prison in a few days when Trump commuted his sentence. In their unrelenting campaign to smear Trump at every turn, MSNBC led the news with a fake report that Trump had “pardoned” Stone. That false claim remained on the banner at the bottom of the screen throughout mendacious the report by one of the networks more maliciously biased hosts, Ali Velshi.
In fact, Trump did NOT pardon Stone. He commuted the prison sentence – something President Obama did a record-breaking 1100 times. A commutation is far far different than a pardon. Trump essentially kept the conviction in place but eliminated any time in jail. This means that Stone is still presumed guilty, but he can pursue his desire for a re-trail from home.
Part of the consideration was Stone’s age and underlying medical conditions. He is in a high-risk category for Covid-19. Thousands of non-violent prisoners are currently being released from prison because the penitentiaries are petri dishes for the disease. Were not Stone a case with political implications, he would most likely be among those let out – or not incarcerated in the firsts place. Trump turncoat, Michael Cohen has been released early – as has been Paul Manafort.
Nothing would be better for Stone – and the nation – than to have a fairly conducted re-trial – sans the politically bias-driven prosecution. Let the chips fall where they may – and let any sentencing, if there is a conviction, be fair and proportionate.
Like Marc Antony speaking over the body of Caesar, I am not here to praise. But I firmly believe that even people I do not like or respect are entitled to fair and unbiased justice. That is – or at least should be – the American way.
So, there ‘tis.