Roger Stone Clemency Latest Example Of Trump Rewarding His Friends, Scholars Say
July 12, 202012:33 PM ET
President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone on Friday, just days before he was set to report to prison. Scholars say Trump’s clemencies have rewarded friends and allies.Andrew Harnik/AP
President Trump issued his first pardon in August 2017, just about seven months into his presidency. Three years and three dozen clemencies later, some patterns have emerged.
One clear pattern is Trump’s tendency to grant clemency to prominent political figures and people who have shown loyalty to him, clemency scholars say. That propensity was on full display on Friday, as Trump commuted the sentence of his former campaign adviser Roger Stone. Stone was just days away from beginning a 40-month prison term for lying to lawmakers investigating Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
“Modern presidents have sullied clemency through disuse (both Bushes) and occasional self-serving grants (Clinton),” Mark Osler, a law professor and clemency scholar at the University of St. Thomas’ School of Law, told NPR via email. “However, no president has ever used clemency primarily to reward friends and political allies” — until Trump.
Presidents can grant clemency through both commutations, which reduce a prison sentence but do not erase a conviction, and pardons, which express presidential “forgiveness” and can restore certain civil rights.
With only a handful of exceptions, Osler said, Trump’s clemency grants have gone to “people he knows or learned about from Fox News.” On a single day in February, Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of 11 people, all of whom had one thing in common: either their cases were promoted on Fox News or they had an inside connection to the president.
Trump also prefers to disregard the advice of the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice, said American University professor Jeffrey Crouch, who has written extensively on the presidential pardon power. That office is responsib