President Donald Trump has commuted the prison sentence of Roger Stone, a confidante and self-described political “dirty trickster” in a Friday evening move that sparked widespread anger from congressional Democrats.
Mr Trump made the controversial move four days before Mr Stone, 67, was scheduled to report to prison to start a 40-month sentence. Mr Stone, one of several allies of the president who has been convicted of crimes over the past two years, was found guilty in February of lying to Congress and engaging in witness tampering to protect Mr Trump.
The White House said Mr Stone, a veteran Republican political operative, was a “victim of the Russia hoax that the left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump presidency”. His conviction was related to his attempt to serve as a backchannel to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which released a batch of Democratic documents and emails obtained by hackers during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mr Stone had petitioned a court to postpone the start of his sentence until September over concerns about coronavirus in the prison system, but he was rebuffed and was expected to report to a Georgia prison on Tuesday.
The flamboyant operative, who worked for Richard Nixon and has a tattoo of the deceased president on his back, had openly campaigned for a reprieve from Mr Trump. Mr Stone was once a lobbying partner of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager, who was sentenced to prison last year for crimes unrelated to the campaign.