“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States, I want the process play out, I think that’s the best thing to do,” Trump said in Las Vegas. “Because I’d love to see Roger exonerated and I’d love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly.”
The President didn’t rule out an eventual pardon or commutation, but said the process should play out first.
“At some point I’ll make a determination, but Roger Stone and everybody has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process,” Trump said.
Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison earlier Thursday. He was convicted last fall of lying to Congress and threatening a witness regarding his efforts for Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Trump still delivered a full-throated defense of his longtime friend, saying: “They said he lied, but other people lied, too.”
The President made his remarks before an audience of former prisoners graduating from a program designed to give felons a second chance in society and the workforce.
Trump’s familiar rant against the criminal justice system was met with curious looks from some of the graduates and their families, particularly when he declared: “These people know about a bad jury.”
The venue for the speech was also remarkable, with the President launching into a critique of law enforcement – referring to “dirty cops” at one point – from a room inside the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
“Roger has a very good chance of exoneration in my opinion,” Trump said at the prisoner reentry event.
He called Stone a “character.”
“He’s a smart guy, he’s a little different, but those are sometimes the most interesting. But he’s a good person. His family is fantastic,” Trump said at the criminal justice reform event.
Trump attacked the forewoman of the jury in Stone’s case, calling her “totally tainted” and an “anti-Trump activist.” He also insinuated, without evidence, that she may have defrauded the court by not answering questions in jury selection honestly by being forthcoming about her political views.
The juror, Tomeka Hart, made news earlier this month when she defended the four prosecutors who withdrew from the case in response to their sentencing recommendation being changed by Justice Department leadership.
The President added that what happened to Stone and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, “destroyed a lot of people’s lives and I’m here to make a fair system.”
Prosecutors had initially asked for Stone to be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, resting that recommendation on the severity of his crimes and behavior. Trump called that ask “very unfair,” however, in a late-night tweet. Attorney General William Barr overrode the recommendation the next day, saying seven years would be too harsh.
Although Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s sentence was much lower than the original request, the judge said prosecutors had done the right thing when they followed the guidelines in their original efforts.
None of the prosecutors who won the case at trial signed the revised sentencing memo, and two new DC US Attorney’s Office supervisors were assigned, exposing how politically charged the case has become inside the Justice Department.
New prosecutor John Crabb Jr. said he wanted to apologize to the court for the confusion.
“This confusion was not caused by the original trial team,” he said. “The original trial team had authorization to submit” the original sentencing memo.
Crabb said he stands by the original memo, adding, “It was done in good faith.”
The President also attempted to distance himself from Stone, claiming Stone was not involved with his 2016 presidential campaign.
“Roger was never involved in the Trump campaign for president. He wasn’t involved. I think early on, long before I announced, he may have done a little consulting work or something, but he was not involved when I ran for president,” Trump remarked.
Stone worked with Trump during his first presidential bid in the late 1990s. He in was hired onto the campaign in 2015, but terminated him later that year.
This story has been updated to reflect additional reporting.