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By Commuting Roger Stone’s Sentence, Donald Trump Admits His Own Guilt, Former U.S. Attorney Explains

Joyce Van White served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 2009 to 2017. In a recent op-ed, she weighed in on what can be understood in Donald Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of his friend and campaign adviser, Roger Stone. Specifically, she talks about a pardon as an admission of guilt, why commutation was a preferable choice to pardon — and how the commutation is an admission of guilt on Trump’s own part.

Donald Trump's commutation of Roger Stone's sentence is an admission of guilt
Roger Stone leaves Federal Court after a sentencing hearing February 20, 2020, in Washington, DC. – Donald Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone was sentenced February 20, 2020 to 40 months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation, in a case that ignited a firestorm over the US president’s political interference in the justice system. Stone, a veteran Republican operative and one of Trump’s oldest confidants, was convicted in November of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to cheat in the 2016 election. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Writing in USA Today, Vance says that commuting Stone’s sentence rather than giving a pardon avoids implicit admission of guilt. “That means Stone will spend no time in jail, but his conviction still stands and he can continue his crusade to have it reversed on appeal without the admission of guilt that is implicit in a pardon. In other words, it’s a win for Stone and for Trump as well, but a terrible loss for the rule of law and American justice.”

However, she says there is another admission of guilt implicit in the act — Trump’s own.

“Roger Stone knows too much for Donald Trump to permit him to spend a single night in prison. Stone has always known that. The final piece of evidence Mueller didn’t have, but that the American people now possess — Trump provided it himself when he commuted Stone’s sentence.”

According to the New York Times, Roger Stone has denied that he kept quiet about Trump’s criminal activity in order to secure a pardon for himself. He says that his statement about refusing to “play Judas” against the president has been misinterpreted. Rather than being about keeping back incriminating information, he claims it was about being expected to falsely implicate Trump in crimes.

As MSNBC reports, Attorney General Bill Barr advised Trump not to pardon Stone. This led to a resurfacing of an answer Barr gave in his own confirmation hearing. Asked by Vermont Senator Pat Leahy(D) if Trump could offer a pardon in exchange for silence from the recipient, Barr said, “No. That would be a crime.”



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