WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday he will not immediately pardon longtime friend and ally Roger Stone but will instead “let the process play out” in the courts.
“I’m going to watch the process, I’m going to watch it very closely,” Trump said at an event in Las Vegas. “And at some point I will make a determination.”
The president said “everybody has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process.”
“Roger has a really good chance of exoneration in my opinion,” Trump said.
Trump’s remarks came hours after Stone was sentenced by a federal court to 40 months in prison and two years of probation, a stunning downfall for the longtime political consultant.
Stone was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and obstructing the Russia investigation. The 67-year-old GOP operative was one of several Trump associates to be convicted in cases stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s remarks in Las Vegas follow a public dispute with Attorney General William Barr over his previous statements about criminal cases. Trump railed against the Justice Department for recommending Stone serve up to nine years, describing the initial recommendation as a “miscarriage of justice.” Justice officials backed away from that tougher sentence.
That reaction has prompted an outcry from critics of the Trump administration who say the president is making inappropriate forays into criminal cases.
Barr, who said Trump had not directly gotten involved in the Stone case, has told associates he could resign over the president’s use of Twitter to weigh in on cases handled by federal prosecutors.
Trump called Stone “a smart guy” and “a good person.”
“I’d love to see Roger Stone exonerated, and I would love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly,” he said.
Trump suggested the jury that convicted Stone was tainted because the jury forewoman was “an anti-Trump activist.”
“She had a horrible social media account,” he said. “The things she said on the account were unbelievable.”
“How can you have a jury pool tainted so badly?” he asked. “It’s not fair.”
Tomeka Hart, a former school board member in Memphis who once ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for Tennessee’s 9th congressional district, had revealed on Facebook earlier that she had been the jury forewoman.
Hart defended the career prosecutors who recommended that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison.
“I want to stand up for Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando, and Jonathan Kravis — the prosecutors on the Roger Stone trial,” Hart wrote. “It pains me to see the DOJ now interfere with the hard work of the prosecutors. They acted with the utmost intelligence, integrity, and respect for our system of justice.”
Contributing: Kristine Phillips