Veteran political strategist Roger Stone said in an interview that he hasn’t decided whether he will appeal his criminal conviction after receiving executive clemency from President Donald Trump.
Stone told The Epoch Times on July 14 that he’s hesitant about going forward with an appeal because a victory would mean the same federal judge, Amy Berman Jackson, would preside over the new case.
Trump commuted Stone’s sentence, including the fine and probation, on July 10, days before he was scheduled to start serving a 40-month prison term. Stone, who had previously said that he would fight the conviction if his sentence is commuted, is no longer sure he will do so because he doesn’t believe Jackson would give him a fair trial.
“I didn’t understand until yesterday that if my trial is overturned by the appeals court my new file would be heard by Judge Jackson. I don’t believe Judge Jackson can give me a fair trial,” Stone told The Epoch Times in an interview.
Stone pointed to Jackson’s most recent ruling as an example. The judge denied an unopposed motion to delay the start of his prison term by two months due to the outbreak of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. Stone argued that he has an underlying condition and the prison he was headed to had confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.
Jackson denied the motion and a circuit court denied Stone’s appeal.
“At the actual prison, where they wanted to send me, which was in Jessup, Georgia, in the last few weeks, they have released a violent sex offender who is a pedophile and a child pornographer for fear that he would be infected by the coronavirus. They have released a second violent sex offender who was a rapist, and they have released a bank robber. So none of this makes any sense, almost like the trial,” Stone said.
After a trial fraught with controversy, a jury convicted Stone in November 2019 on seven felony counts, including lying to investigators, tampering with a witness, and obstructing a congressional inquiry. Four Department of Justice prosecutors subsequently resigned from the case after Attorney General William Barr withdrew their sentencing recommendation in favor of a lighter one. The judge settled on a sentence recommended by Barr.
Then-special counsel Robert Mueller brought the charges against Stone as part of an investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Stone briefly served on the Trump campaign in 2015 before he was fired, or resigned, as he maintains. Mueller completed his 22-month investigation finding no evidence of collusion.
When Trump called to convey the news of the clemency on July 10, the president said he hopes Stone will appeal the conviction and fight for exoneration.
“He said, ‘I want you to know that I have decided in an act of clemency to commute your sentence. I understand this allows you to go forward with your appeal and fight for exoneration,’” Stone said, relaying the content of the call.
“He said, ‘I really think you should do that because I think you got a raw deal. I think you got screwed. And I think that you can prove your innocence.’”
Stone was one of several Trump campaign associates to be prosecuted by Mueller. Like the others, he was charged with process crimes rather than the central alleged crime, conspiring with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
The FBI’s scandal-ridden investigation of the Trump campaign, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane, was the progenitor of the Mueller inquiry. An investigation of the FBI’s conduct in the case by the Department of Justice inspector general (IG) revealed that key FBI personnel on the case harbored intense anti-Trump biases.
The IG found that the bureau relied on a dossier composed by a former foreign spy and paid for by the Clinton campaign to obtain a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate. The FBI’s applications for the warrant contained 17 serious errors or omissions. The IG concluded that it was inexplicable how separate handpicked teams working the most sensitive case on the bureau’s roster could commit so many errors.
Stone, who as a young man had his name briefly featured in the Watergate hearings due to his work on the Nixon campaign, believes the investigation of the Trump campaign in 2016, sometimes referred to as Spygate, is a much bigger scandal.
“There’s no comparison because the Obama administration at the highest possible levels, including the president, used the full authority of the United States government and the extraordinary surveillance capability of our intelligence agencies to spy on the Republican candidate for president and to defraud the FISA courts,” Stone said.
Stone noted that the two of the three pillars of Mueller’s investigation—the Steele dossier and the charges against alleged Russian social media influence operation—have collapsed. The Department of Justice dismissed the charges against the Russian social media operation in March. The Mueller investigation didn’t corroborate any of the damaging allegations in the Steele dossier about Trump. Emerging evidence also suggests that the dossier was tainted with Russian disinformation.
“He only had one thing left and they continue to stick to it—the Russians hacked the DNC and gave the information to the Russians, which they cannot prove. But they talk about it as if it is a fact,” Stone said.
The charges against the Russians in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee remain alleged. Prior to his conviction, Stone had claimed that the FBI relied solely on cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike to determine that Russians were behind the hack. The prosecutors in the case replied to that assertion by claiming the government had more evidence than what is in the public realm.
Significant questions remain unanswered about CrowdStrike’s role in the investigation.
The DNC emails released by WikiLeaks were stolen in a separate breach in late May 2016, three weeks after the DNC engaged CrowdStrike to address the hack. A CrowdStrike spokeswoman previously told The Epoch Times that “there is no indication that there was ever a breach on any DNC server or computer protected by CrowdStrike’s technology.”