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National News

After Mueller's Op-Ed on Roger Stone, Graham to Call on Him to Testify

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After Mueller's Op-Ed on Roger Stone, Graham to Call on Him to Testify

2020-07-13 14:25:04

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Robert Mueller (Image source: Medill DC via Wikimedia Commons)


While many suspected that Donald Trump would commute the sentence of his confidante and former campaign adviser Roger Stone, what the president ultimately did was commute the sentence. A few Republican senators are speaking out against the move, and former special counsel Robert Mueller had a lot to say about it. This led Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (D-SC) to call on Mueller to testify before his committee.

Stone was convicted last year on seven charges in Mueller's Russia investigation. These included obstruction, witness tampering, and making false statements. His prosecutors recommended a sentence of nine years, and Trump balked. Attorney General William Barr then stepped in and suggested a lighter sentence.

After Stone exhausted the last of his efforts and a federal appeals court rejected his request to delay his sentence that was due to start Tuesday, Trump jumped in and commuted the sentence.

Mueller had much to say in an op-ed to The Washington Post. He defended "the work of the special counsel's office — its report, indictments, guilty pleas, and convictions," noting the work "should speak for itself."

He wrote that he was "compelled" to respond to the "broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improver, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office. The Russia investigation was of paramount importance." He insisted that even after his commutation, "[Stone] remains a convicted felon and rightfully so."

Mueller more or less laid out his whole investigation of Stone and somewhat the interest in Russia and the Trump campaign. He noted that "by late 2016, the FBI had evidence that the Russians had signaled to a Trump campaign adviser that they could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to the Democratic candidate."

After explaining that he was named as special counsel of the investigation after FBI director James Comey was fired by Trump, he explained, "The order specified lines of investigation for us to pursue, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign."

One of those cases involved Stone, who "became a central figure in our investigation for two key reasons: he communicated in 2016 with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers, and he claimed advance knowledge of WikiLeaks' release of emails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers."

"We now have a detailed picture of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. The special counsel's office identified two principal operations directed at our election: hacking and dumping Clinton campaign emails and an online social media campaign to disparage the Democratic candidate. We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel — Stone among them," Mueller laid out.

This next explanation is where the difference in opinion came in between what Mueller wrote in his final report and what Barr wrote that it said, before releasing a very redacted report.

"We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its activities. The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. It also established that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts," wrote Mueller.

Through Mueller's two-year investigation, "eight individuals pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial, and more than two dozen Russian individuals and entities, including senior Russian intelligence officers, were charged with federal crimes."

The former special counsel lays out exactly why Stone deserved his sentence. "A jury later determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks' releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress."

Just in case anyone is confused about what it means for Stone to have his sentence commuted by Trump, Mueller wrote, "Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison. But his conviction stands."

In his final moment to defend his two years of work in the investigation, after a year of silence on the matter, Mueller wrote, "We made every decision in Stone's case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law. The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced the commutation be stating Stone was "a victim of the Russia hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years." She also slammed the charges against him by saying they were "process-based" and "the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice."

Two Republican senators, Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), also condemned Trump commuting Stone's sentence. "Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president," tweeted Romney.

Toomey said in a statement that Trump "clearly has the legal and constitutional authority to grant clemency for federal crimes," but noted that commuting Stone's sentence was a "mistake," partially because of the severity of his crimes.

"While I understand the frustration with the badly-flawed Russia-collusion investigation, in my view, commuting Roger Stone's sentence is a mistake," he explained. "He was duly convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of a congressional investigation conducted by a Republican-led committee."

Toomey also reminded all that earlier in the week Barr had called Stone's prosecution "righteous" and said his 40-month prison sentence was "fair." This, again, was after the attorney general had interfered and recommended a lighter sentence for Stone.

It wasn't necessarily surprising that these two senators spoke against Trump. Romney has gone up against the president repeatedly and was the sole senator to vote to convict him in his impeachment trial. Toomey has occasionally gone against him as well. Graham, not surprisingly, was supportive of Trump commuting Stone's sentence, as "this was a nonviolent, first-time offense" for him.

That is, until the Mueller op-ed was published.

After the op-ed, Graham said he would call on Mueller to testify about the investigation. "Apparently, Mr. Mueller is willing — and also capable — of defending the Mueller investigation through an op-ed in the Washington Post," he said in a statement on Sunday.

"Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have previously requested Mr. Mueller appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about his investigation. That request will be granted." 

Back in February, a seat before Graham's Judiciary panel wasn't so easy to come by. Democrats implored him to call Barr to testify about reducing the number of requested years for Stone's sentence. He didn't seem to feel the need to do so at that point, but now that Mueller has spoken up, he wants to listen.

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