Former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance explained that President Donald Trump's commutation of Roger Stone proves his own guilt.
Writing for USA Today Tuesday, Vance explained that Trump had always hinted about a pardon for Stone, but it wasn't one, it was a commutation, because Stone didn't want to admit guilt for his role in the Russia scandal. Still, his conviction will stand, Vance explained, and Stone can return to the battle for his friend's political career. It might be a win for Stone and Trump but it's terrible for the rule of law, she explained.
The statement justifying the commutation made it clear that Trump is still fighting what he calls "the Russia Hoax," the well-documented efforts by Russia to tamper with the U.S. election in 2016.
"Trump rewarded the man who lied to protect him from criminal investigation and congressional oversight, a shameless abuse of the presidential pardon power. Permitting Stone to avoid prison for seven felony convictions involving Trump’s campaign was the ultimate act of lawlessness," wrote Vance.
It was enough to almost make former special counsel Robert Mueller care. In carefully chose language, Mueller made it clear that his investigation found Trump's “campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts," Vance cited.
"This carefully chosen language says out loud what Trump has worked so hard to deny," she explained, noting Trump's statement was another effort to convince his followers that he didn't do anything wrong in 2016.
"If Mueller’s team had any hunger for splashy headlines, they could have easily provoked them," said Vance, noting that Mueller still remained silent and "professional."
"Prosecutors may get frustrated in the face of witnesses who withhold the truth, but malice has nothing to do with their prosecutions, and the unanimous verdict of the jury that convicted Stone on seven charges substantiates that," she wrote.
"It is painful but necessary to review the lies and self-serving rationales he offers to justify his perversion of justice and disguise the quid pro quo that is Stone’s reward for concealing the truth," said Vance. "Too often, Trump’s misdeeds run into each other with such speed, we are on to the next one before we can fully reflect on its significance. But the Stone commutation is uniquely awful because it is a direct attempt by the president to protect himself. It is a shocking betrayal of American ideals, and we cannot let it get lost in the undertow of whatever distraction comes next."
She closed by explaining that it isn't unusual to hear Trump attack the Justice Department that he controls.
Trump's statement read: "Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!"
Something Vance called "equally deceptive."
"Despite his obligation to protect the country from all enemies foreign and domestic, Trump trots out the tired lie of the 'Russia Hoax' to dismiss Russian interference in our 2016 election and justify commuting Stone’s sentence," Vance wrote.
Regardless of what Trump claims, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation, "fortunately, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into it, and rightly so if our elections are to have the chance to remain fair and free..."
"Once credible allegations of foreign interference in a U.S. election came to light, it would have been unthinkable for the FBI not to investigate," said Vance. "And far from collusion being a fantasy, Stone emerged as a central figure in the Russia investigation. Mueller, who was consistently conservative in his estimation of what the evidence could prove, nonetheless was confident in saying that Stone “communicated in 2016 with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers, and he claimed advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ release of emails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers.”
Vance closed by saying that Mueller may have been blocked from proving Trump was part of a conspiracy between his campaign and Russia, still, there's more than enough information for the public to reach a logical conclusion, she explained.
"Trump provided the linchpin himself, commuting the sentence of the man who lied to protect him," she wrote. Why would Stone lie to Congress unless there was something important to lie about? And even Trump wouldn’t run the political risk of rewarding a witness who lied on his behalf, with an election on the horizon — unless the damage Stone could do to Trump, if he decided to cooperate to spare himself from prison, was substantial."
In the end, Roger Stone knows far too much for Donald Trump to let him spend even one night in prison.
"Stone has always known that. The final piece of evidence Mueller didn’t have, but that the American people now possess — Trump provided it himself when he commuted Stone’s sentence," she said.