by Randi Turkin
Last week, Roger Stone was convicted of impeding Congress’s Russia investigations by lying to lawmakers in a bid to protect Trump. The savvy Republican operative, who has been a longtime informal adviser to the president, has starred in his own political performance art production for years, brilliantly portraying the character “a mischievous and dirty trickster.” Now, all his antics have come back to haunt him – seven felonies for obstructing the congressional inquiry, lying to investigators under oath and witness tampering. Together the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 50 years. Stone’s sentence will be handed down in February 2020.
Just before his conviction, Stone used right-wing conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, who runs Infowars, to appeal for a pardon. Trump has yet to comment on the pardon request, but he did condemn Stone’s conviction in a tweet last Friday. It was no doubt a bad day for the president, as Stone makes the sixth former Trump aide to be convicted in cases related to the Mueller investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It was sweet irony for the rest of us, as the verdict came down at the exact same time impeachment investigators are scrutinizing how Trump has asked for help from another foreign government to win the 2020 election.
Remember how Stone told the House Committee in September 2017 that he’d never discussed WikiLeaks’ plans with the Trump campaign? Surprise! That isn’t true. Evidence showed that Stone tried to obtain the emails that Russia had stolen from Democrat computers and given to WikiLeaks, which released the emails to the public at strategic moments to damage Clinton’s campaign. But the kicker is that Stone repeatedly briefed Trump’s campaign about WikiLeaks’ plans, a claim that the entire Trump Mafia has denied repeatedly.
It may not matter that Stone was found guilty of all charges. Just hours after his verdict was handed down, Trump used his pardon power to relieve punishments of three U.S. soldiers who were convicted of committing war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. This sent a message to all his cronies – Trump feels loyalty to the code of omertà (a code of silence, as practiced by the Mafia, about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to authorities) – meaning, maintain your silence and you receive a “get out of jail free” card.
It’s not the first time he has dangled his pardon power in front of government officials. Earlier this year, Trump allegedly told the top official at Customs and Border Protection that if he ignored judicial orders and federal laws to decrease border crossings or build the wall faster, he would be pardoned. Manafort received the same message – don’t snitch, and I’ll take care of you.
And now we have two different grassroots petitions that have amassed nearly 30,000 signatures demanding that Trump pardon Roger Stone. For the petitions to be effective, they must receive a total of 100,000 signatures within the 30 days in order for the White House to respond.
Presidential pardons are irrevocable. Will the white-haired, flamboyant dresser who proudly shows off his Nixon tattoo get justice, or will we once again be witnesses to the degradation of our democratic systems?