President Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of Roger Stone Friday, offering refuge to an ally who has espoused violent rhetoric, bigotry, and conspiracy theories and cozied up to violent hate groups and conspiracy theorists.
Stone is a close associate of the Proud Boys hate group, which has been responsible for multiple violent incidents across the nation. He has recruited members of the group as private security, attending a political rally with a gaggle of its members in 2018. The group has stayed loyal to Stone, with organization leaders attending Stone’s court appearances in D.C. wearing pro-Stone swag. In a recent interview with some of the most prominent podcasters of the Qanon conspiracy theory, Stone spoke approvingly of the QAnon movement—which the FBI considers a domestic terrorism risk. During his appearance on the pro-QAnon show, Stone encouraged the associated movement, saying that he hoped ”Q” was real.
Stone is a longtime friend of President Donald Trump, and a longtime GOP fixer who has worked on behalf of former Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. In 2015, Stone worked as an early adviser and consultant to Trump’s presidential campaign. Although the duo formally parted ways with each other in August that year, Stone continued to organize for Trump throughout the entire campaign season and Trump’s first term. Stone teamed up with far-right conspiracy theorist shock jock Alex Jones as a media partner and co-organizer of a rally at the 2016 Republican National Convention that featured what would become some of the highest profile pro-Trump voices of the Trump era, including Milo Yiannopoulos, Diamond & Silk, Ed Martin, and Kelli Ward.
It was through Stone that Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange is thought to have entered the Trump campaign orbit. Jones told listeners in late 2018 that Stone had originally contacted Assange as part of an audition for a job at Jones’ Infowars media outlet, although Jones is notorious for making false statements. During the 2016 election, Wikileaks published a trove of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta—an event that is widely interpreted as having contributed to Trump’s victory over Clinton—and fed conspiracy theories, disinformation, and smears that cited the stolen communications. Private messages reportedly showed that Stone was in contact with Assange and Russian military intelligence during that time. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon testified that he saw Stone as an “access point” to WikiLeaks and Assange during the 2016 campaign.
After special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to lead the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Stone offered assurances to Assange that he would be safe from prosecutors. But Stone failed to protect Assange from federal prosecution, or his own skin for that matter.
In February, Stone was sentenced to more than three years in prison and two years of probation for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation. Federal officials originally recommended Stone serve seven to nine years in prison, but after angry tweets from Trump, the Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr withdrew its recommendation and replaced it with a lesser one, prompting four DOJ employees to resign from the case in apparent protest.
Even then, Stone has sought to garner public sympathy and has begged Trump to come to his rescue. Stone repeatedly claimed he had been prosecuted for the fact he supported Trump’s presidential bid and claimed that going to prison would effectively serve as a death sentence for him.
On Friday, just days before Stone was supposed to report to prison, Trump commuted Stone’s sentence. Stone will not go to prison, serve probation, or pay his ordered $20,000 fine. The news of Trump’s decision came after a months-long campaign by Infowars and Fox News to rationalize and excuse Stone’s criminal acts.