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Roger Stone Avoids Prison

Abby: And joining us now to discuss this is criminal defense and constitutional attorney, Page Pate. Page, this situation, I guess, is not entirely surprising. That’s been signaled for some time but what is different about this is that I think a lot of people were expecting a pardon here. Roger Stone says he wanted his sentence commuted because he didn’t want to admit guilt. What is the significance of that?

Page: Well, Abby, that’s a good point and I don’t think anyone’s really discussed it fully yet. I am certain that Mr. Stone and his lawyers would have preferred a full pardon but I expect that the White House compromised here and Trump said, “Look. I’m not gonna wipe away the conviction entirely. I’m gonna get too much backlash from Department of Justice prosecutors, the people who are on the front lines, so I’m just going to commute the sentence.” Now, the idea that Mr. Stone can still appeal his conviction, that’s true. But there is nothing about that conviction that I can see that will be successful on appeal and result in a new trial. So I think it was a compromise by the White House.

Victor: We heard at the top of this conversation from House Committee Intelligence Chair there, Adam Schiff. I want you to listen to what Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, said about limiting the president’s pardoning power. Watch.

Nancy: There ought to be a law and I’m recommending that we pass a law that presidents cannot issue a pardon if the crime that the person is in jail for is one that is caused by protecting the president, which this was.

Victor: Probably slim chances of that actually becoming law but reconcile that with the Constitution and what it would take to get it done.

Page: Yeah, Victor, that would be an unconstitutional law if it ever passed because the Constitution clearly gives full pardon power to the president. It’s completely unchecked and there were some objections about that when it was put into the Constitution but James Madison said, “Look. It’s not a problem. If a president ever tried to pardon anyone he may have been connected with in the commission of a crime, he would be immediately impeached.” Well, obviously, that’s not going to happen in this environment so the idea that there would be a check on the pardon power in the Constitution never made it. So to change the pardon power, we’re gonna have to amend the Constitution and that is a huge effort. And I don’t see that happening.

Abby: It’s interesting that, you know, that ship of impeachment has already sailed for President Trump, so it seems like that threat is not even operable in this moment. But there is something that Roger Stone said yesterday. He said, “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him.” And he said, “It would have eased my situation considerably.” It really suggested to a lot of people that Stone had something to say that could have incriminated the president. Are there any potential consequences down the road to that acknowledgment from Stone this week?

Page: It appears not. I mean, I think it’s clear, despite the statement from the White House about all these reasons for the commutation, that the sole reason that the president did it was because he was a friend of Trump. Stone had protected Trump. I mean, the things that they put in the statement: it was a process crime, it was unfair, he may get sick in jail, all that applies to a bunch of people who are in federal prison right now, but they don’t know the president. So I think it’s clear that it was the relationship here and the fact that he lied to cover up something that ultimately protected the president. That’s why he’s not going to prison.

Victor: Page Pate, always good to have you. Thank you so much, sir.

Page: Thank you.