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.
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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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com