Trump, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn
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Trump on Friday commuted that sentence while leading the convictions intact. The president issued a statement. Calling. Roger Stone a victim of the Russia hoax. Outrageous couple lines here quote the collusion delusion spawned endless and farcical investigations conducted at great taxpayer expense, looking for evidence that did not exist as it became clear that these witch hunts would never bear fruit. The special counsel's office resorted to process based charges levelled at high profile people in an attempt to manufacture the false impression of criminality lurking below the surface unquote cam. What do you make of the commutation of the President's statement here? Well on the merits, I think I agree more with Dr. who pointed out? This was prior to the commutation that he believed that the the stone prosecution was a quote unquote. And appropriate and I think there's something to that. Because look, let's go back and remember what's at stake here the special counsel Robert Mueller charged stone with. Lying to Congress and obstructing investigation, a witness tampering and all of it had to do with his supposed- interactions with wikileaks. Outfit that published documents stolen from Democrats and in the end it looks as though Mr Stone didn't really have all that much communication with wikileaks. He claimed how far more influence than he did at least when it came to talking to the trump campaign. There doesn't seem to be any crime quote on crime there in terms of his actual acts, but the question was. Did he lie and there doesn't seem to be any. Any much of a question that he did and so the issue was came down to the Muller team, had advocated nine years in prison, which was kind of outrageous summertime given the actual issue here. The Department of Justice did a review under bill bar. They actually revised the recommendation for the sentence, which was much more in line with what other people had received for this that to me seemed generally the right approach. So you know the president. This master stone has no martyr as we pointed it out, and and the president is right that there's probably no evidence about some bigger. There is no evidence about some bigger deep dark tie to Russia but the the issues of the kind of lying and our judicial system at he should. My argument would be that he should base same justice as other folks. To my mind I think that's I. think that's right Kim I mean. There's no evidence that I've seen. The Roger Stone was the mastermind of a grand conspiracy to turn the election. But just to just to dig in on that context a little bit more I mean. wikileaks in the two thousand sixteen campaign was releasing these emails. These hacked e mails from Hillary Clinton's advisers stone had some contact with wikileaks so Bob. Muller wrote an op Ed after the commutation, and here's what he says about. He says stone became a central figure in our investigation for two key reasons he communicated in two thousand, sixteen, with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers, and he claimed advanced knowledge of wikileaks release of emails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers so bill I mean to me. It seems like there's there's a legitimate basis for the investigation of stone here. Yeah I look I think there was look at my. Roger Stone. Is You know he's? He's kind of a political, dirty trickster and everything. He's been involved in politics for a long time. any seems if I'm reading it correctly to have gotten in trouble for I. Lying about his connections to wiki leaks to to the trump campaign, the people around implying he had closer ties and. Then he did, and then lying about those lies to the federal investigators and so forth. I think on the merits you could make a case for I, do think that There's a case bill bar inherited this. You're not going to undo. everything that you inherit, and there was a plausible case because he had not told the truth to go after them, but I do think it's part of the excesses of the Muller. Muller Commission going after them this way, and I think that that recommendation of nine year sentence speaks to it. I do think that was outrageous plus start as a legitimate complaint about the jury format so So I think, it's a really messy case I. do think that bar has a bigger. There's so many things Going on just just now from Flynn to the dorm investigation, and so forth and to to waste capital on Rogers. Roger Stone I'm not sure that's the wisest thing after you know. Bill Bar stuck his neck out on the on the sentencing thing so I can understand that I i. agree that people that lie should be called to account, but so far there's been very there've been precious. Few people in the FBI or the Justice Department of the Obama Administration who have been called to account for their lies on the question of Bill Bar. I mean that's part of what makes this a pretty messy in my mind, because as you say. I, mean He. He's stuck his neck out here in a real way I mean. There are some reporting that bar argued internally against the commutation He said recently as Kim mentioned. He said he thought the prosecution was righteous. He said he thought the sentence. The judge ultimately gave was fair. But remember earlier this year, so prosecutors had recommended originally a sentence of seven to nine years. bar argued that that was excessive, and he pushed for something shorter, and then the judge settled on forty months, and now trump leaves him sort of handling hanging, twisting in the wind, there wasting political capital, and if trump Kim was going to commute the sentence, why not let stone get a nine year sentence, and then trump could make the argument that it was excessive. Yeah, I really wish he had taken that into account because the biggest threat right now to bill bar. Is this campaign by everyone on the left to suggest that he is somehow quotes the president's lawyer rather than the lawyer for the United States the top cop for the United. States, and that somehow he is subject to political pressure and just doing the will of the trump administration. It's all a bunch of nonsense. If you look at the way that the Justice Department has conducted, all of its reviews that in any way touch on Bob Muller's work. It's all been done by the book and it's all been done to serve the cause of justice in essence. Here with Roger Stone being that you know if you WanNa talk about politicization Roger Stone appears to have been singled out by the Muller Team for an excessive sentencing recommendation solely because he was connected to the presidency, and that was one of the points that Bar Barmaid in this review is that we can't perceive from the Department of Justice from a weaponized perspective, and so he had this neutral review done, and the revised a recommendation was put forward at much more in line with anyone had ever been charged in the past. And, and that was justice, and so yeah, if the president wasn't a going to, if the president didn't agree with this and he was always going to. Calm you commute. The sentence of of Roger. Stoney should have done it back before that entire process took place in an allowed billboard. Put himself out there and get beat up yet again because we're now seeing this in terms of other actions, he's taking for instance Michael Flynn and that's one of my big worries. Is that these two cases do not bear any relation to up to each other, and if there is a person who deserves at the moment, a presidential pardon, it should be Michael Flynn, but it's going to become that much harder now to do it in the arguments again will be targeted at at Bill Bar. We'll get to flint in a minute, but bill. Where where does this stone clemency fit? Do you think in the sorted history of presidential clemency actions I? Mean there are people who are calling this a unprecedented corruption under trump. And you know you can argue that he shouldn't have done it. That stone should have gone to jail for lying. To investigators for intimidating a witness and whatnot but there's there's also it's hard to ignore the as I say this sordid history of this kind of stuff. Yeah, but couple of distinctions one is the pardon power given to president is pretty much not that absolutely. I think there's an exception for impeachment, but otherwise is unlimited. The president can do it for whatever reasons he wants in many presidents have. Have done it I I really find myself. with a jaundiced view of the people that complaining about the corruption here if you look at the Bill Clinton pardons for terrorists and mark, rich and donors, and so forth, it's really hard to put Roger Stone who's kind of clownish figure up in that up in that category. The other distinction is that he wasn't really pardon. Pardon. His sentence was commuted he still is by Muller, says a convicted Felon and so forth, and clearly he was afraid of going to jail, and he was relieved that I'd say one thing on behalf of trump that most presidents like Bill Clinton wait till the last day for the controversial pardons. Because then there's no accountability for it. Trump's at least done it before the election, so people can. Can you know make their votes on this through the ballot box but I do agree with Kim. If you were going to do this, this should have been done before. Bill Bar went to all that effort on the sentencing it. It just makes no sense to do it in this in this way, you have to take care of your own people and Bill. Bar I think is doing. An exceptional job, which is why he's under constant attack, and this doesn't help him doing. What he needs to do with the far more important cases. Hang tight. We'll be right back. You're listening to Potomac. Watch from the Wall Street Journal. Robotics artificial intelligence augmented reality. The future is here. Listen to tomorrow today with the Wall Street Journal's future of everything, the podcast that takes you to the frontlines of science and tech and shows you what's coming next? Look ahead, what do you hear? The future of everything from the Wall Street Journal subscribe wherever. You get your podcasts. From, the opinion pages of the Wall Street. Journal this is Potomac. Watch, welcome back just to compare again to some of those. Clinton precedence over a couple of instances that are being raised in the commentary are I'm Susan McDougal involved in the Whitewater investigation? Who was? pardoned. Though you know, the counter side of that argument is that she had already served her time. and Bill Clinton's half brother, who was pardoned on a charge, and but to to build point there was a nice line in the Journal editorial. Where said at least at least trump did it during an election campaign, so voters can add this to the legend of character issues. They take into the voting booth. I mean Kim, do you? Do you How do you draw those distinctions between what trump has done in what's come before? Oh. Really! That one important part here is that he did it in the view of everybody, and they can factor that in when they go to the ballot box again and decide you know what they make of that situation that is very different from for instance what Barack Obama did toward the end of his term commuting the sentence of a Puerto Rican terrorist or of Chelsea, manning whose leaks by the way put our American troops sent. An Afghan translators at great risk of folks who were fighting the Taliban and so you know, and those were pretty pretty outrageous pardons, but ones that and ones that came at a point where nobody really had much of a say or could could weigh in on judgment on them. look I the other thing I would point out. Is that I know that in Donald? Trump's mind he he is arguing, or he believes, and you can tell from his comments that the injustice here was Bob Muller as a special counsel, and all of the people who were caught up in his probe and the argument that you know. He was put into office in order to. Put in his position in order to root out. Were there any Russian collusion? As well as look at Russian interference in the election, and along the way he swept up a lot of people that really were did not or could not found to have engaged in any such crimes, but they were instead charged for unrelated things whether it be Michael Cohen and his taxes or You know Paul Manafort in prior business dealings. And so in his in his mind is somehow a broader injustice and you can argue over that, but I think that the bigger point here is that there? There can be no question that the crimes Roger Stone engaged in There was evidence and a jury found him guilty. I know that there are some questions about the jury forewoman and her trial, and whether or not she had anti-trump biased, but still it went through the system that was as good as what we've got and so You Know I. Do believe that he should have. He added therefore has to be judged in the same way. We've you other people. Right and the worry being that. If the president. Is that someone who lies to cover up something? Even if even if there is no grand conspiracy behind, it is going to get clemency that that's sort of a worrying precedent I. Mean it, it It seems clear that the the president's pardon power clemency power commutation power is very broad. One of the strange reactions bill to this I thought was from Nancy. Pelosi who is saying speaker of the House is saying that Congress will take action to prevent this kind of brazen wrongdoing. Legislation is needed to ensure that no president can pardon or commute the sentence of an individual who is engaged in a cover-up campaign to shield that President from criminal, prosecution unquote and I have. Have a hard time imagining what that kind of legislation would look like. Since the constitutional clause on pardons seems pretty clear to me. Yeah I think like so many things? With Speaker Pelosi this is just done for the political moment, they would have to modify the constitution I. Don't see that happening again. The pardon power is very broad I'd say one last thing. The pardon power is not necessarily directed to help people who were innocent. who were framed right I. mean it does do that sometimes. Sometimes people were unfairly put in president so forth, but most of the time the pardon power is exercise people who work healthy and for whatever reason president determines. Maybe the punishment was excessive. Maybe. There are other factors it's. It's sort of a correction some ways, but just because someone is, pardon doesn't mean that they were innocent or deserving of a pardon, because of their innocence, and again in Roger Stone's case, he's not declared not guilty. He still has a guilty conviction. All right, moving to the second of those on the Michael Flynn case so I think the last time we talked about this prosecution. That just won't end. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled for Flynn. Essentially ordering the Lower Court Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss the case so Kim. What what has happened since then bring us up to speed. Unfortunately judge. Sullivan Has Not treated that panel. With as much respect as they treated him, remember they did grant the rid of Mundane Mus an ordered Judge Sullivan to dismiss the case they did not however agree to another request from the Flynn team in which they asked to remove judge Sullivan from the case they allowed him to keep overseeing, and so he is now repaid them with that courtesy by saying he refuses to drop the charges instead. He is going to appeal this up to a full hearing by the Full D. C. Circuit. We still don't know whether the court is going to take that appeal, but there's some real risks here because if you remember in the waning days of Senate Democrats running the Senate and Barack Obama Presidency they changed. The rules impact the DC circuit court with liberal judges, and unfortunately this has become a very politicized case in so there's GonNa be pressure for the full court to hear it whereas normally by the way this I mean in some ways. If you think it's a run of mill kind of lying case. Case not suggesting that doesn't matter, but it's not the sort of thing that normally is subject to Ritz. Man Damus and appeals all the way up to the circuit like a full circuit court so normally this would not be something that would motivate the entire court, but this is sadly become a politicized case and there has now been so much injustice. put toward Michael Flynn, that you know. We recently ran aditorial, arguing that this is the proper use of presidential pardon power. Yeah, interested dig on that. What what's the argument there and why not wait for the process to unfold bill? I mean the DC circuit I think says that Flynn has until July twenty to file his reply, and then they'll decide whether the full court will hear the case so it seems like there will be a resolution here coming in matter of weeks or months. What's the argument for not letting that? Play out well. I think you can argue it either way since Michael, Flynn's not faced with jail. This moment I mean Donald Trump could wait to the last day of his administration and pardon him. The advantage of that is The process may yet vindicate. Roger shown the argument for doing now is doing it now. Is that The case started out with some really bad behavior. By the FBI and Justice Department with which withheld exculpatory evidence Kinda diddled with the three zero two forms FBI agents used to sum up an interview and all sorts of bad behavior, and when the Justice Department looked at it found its. Behaved very badly and that the evidence didn't support charging. Flynn with lying in fact, they said they could either not prove it. They're not certainly could prove it or even if he did lie because there was no investigation, it wasn't material, so it's very different from the Roger. Stone case because Roger Stone doesn't contest that he did. He didn't do the things. He's accused of I. Mean No one's really contesting that they're contesting whether pardoned is. For him, but they're not contesting the facts. In this case, the people were responsible for prosecuting. You're saying there's no reason to prosecute. It was an unjust prosecution. So that's that's the executive branch of government to really powerful agencies FBI injustice now we have. A judge kind of a clowning up judicial system. I mean he was ordered by an appellate panel to drop the charges against Flynn. And what he's doing is is relying on a very small technicality to take the law in a totally different direction, very dubious that would basically allow him to prosecute General Flynn. After the Justice Department is declined to do so so right now. We have an opinion from the appellate court. That's still. Still hold sway so the argument for doing it now is that Donald Trump in pardoning roger stone can say because there's been such bad faith showed by the judge. In this case we're I'm a pardoning him. use the the arguments of the appellate court in so doing so he would have some strength for which he doesn't have in the in the Roger Stone case he would have the support of the court and he could argue that he's in fact upholding the law. Trying to correct The you know the justice, Department's a bad prosecution and upholding the integrity of the judicial process, which I think Judge Sullivan is corrupting. Is there anything that you would add to that Kim in distinguishing these two cases distinguishing Michael Flynn from Roger Stone because I think a lot of people's minds people who are not following a the details of this real closely. They probably lump them together as two guys who were accused of lying to investigators. And and are are probably not going to get punished any way for it. So what are the differences here that people should focus on? Well the biggest difference and the most important differences in one case in the Flynn case, the Department of Justice has said we should never have brought this case. This case had validity in no merit. And that it was not in the interest of justice, and so they sought to withdraw their charges and dropped. The case in a court of law is very different than what happened in the Roger Stone case. In which the charges were brought, there was a trial and things a proceeded through fashion. And then then you look at. Why has the Department of Justice said that this was a problem, and it's because we have had all kinds of evidence that the FBI in the early stages of this railroaded and sandbagged Mr Flynn doing an end run around normal White House procedures denying defense team exculpatory evidence, revising the FBI zones three to interview forms all kinds of things that are just really really outrageous behavior from the F. b. i. and the Department of Justice Prior to bill bars arrival there. And remember too that the decision by the department, of Justice to. Withdraw its charges against so requests to withdraw its charges against Mr. Flynn was done after a months long review a by US attorney that had had no connection with this a respected US attorney. who had spent years himself as a prosecutor and an FBI official, so was familiar with how all this works and found that this was wrong. None of this bears any relation to the Roger Stone case, which again which charges were abroad, evidence was presented the Department of Justice stuck by that. There was a trial and there was a sentencing, so you know. I know that the left is going to attempt to just conflict these two issues and suggests that it's all evidence of Bill Bar and Politicisation and corruption on the White House, but the the two cases bear no relation to each other or anything. You want to add bill given the last word, no I except for one thing, there's a reason for this and it's because they fear bill bar. They know he's a professional and they know he takes laws seriously. And what they fear is that he is going to bring accountability to some of the worst actions in two thousand sixteen, and that's why he must be destroyed in discredited. Thank you him and bill thank you all for listening. We'll be back later this week with another edition of the Tomac Watch.