US President Donald Trump has commuted the prison sentence of his former adviser Roger Stone
The announcement came just after the Washington DC Court of Appeals denied Stone’s request to delay the start date of his custodial term of 40 months.
He was convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.
Stone was the sixth Trump aide found guilty on charges linked to a justice department probe that alleged Russia tried to boost the Trump 2016 campaign.
It’s hard to say the president’s decision to grant clemency to his long-time friend and political counsellor is surprising, but it’s still jarring. Even though the president has called the special counsel investigation that prosecuted Stone a sham and a partisan witch hunt, Stone was duly convicted of serious crimes.
Meanwhile, Stone’s active lobbying for a commutation, recently saying that he could have “easily” turned on the president to avoid trial, was unseemly at best.
Mr Trump is not the first president to issue controversial pardons or commutations for friends and associates, of course. Most of his predecessors, however, waited until the last days of their presidency to take such actions, as they knew the political firestorms they would generate.
Mr Trump, on the other hand, seems to relish the controversy. Like much of his time in office, his actions are done with an eye toward a base that views instigating political opponents as an end to itself.
While the action will be sharply criticised, at this point in the Trump presidency his critics and his allies appear pretty much set in stone. Giving Stone a reprieve won’t win Mr Trump any new support, but that’s not the point. He’s helping a loyal friend, critics be damned.