Trump refuses to rule out commuting Roger Stone sentence amid string of controversial pardons

John T Bennett
Roger Stone at the launch of his book The Making of the President 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida, in 2017: Getty

Donald Trump says he has "total confidence" in Attorney General William Barr and claims he has given nary a thought to pardoning longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone.

The president, after announcing he had commuted the sentences of disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and convicted former New York City police boss Bernie Kerik, as well as pardoning or commuting the sentences of nine others, also aggressively defended his use of social media after Mr Barr said his tweets make it "impossible" to run the Justice Department.

"I do make his job harder. I think that's true," Mr Trump said before defending his social media habit. "The attorney general is a man with incredible integrity.

"Everybody has the right to speak their mind. And I use social media, I guess I use it well because here I am. I'm here," Mr Trump said, meaning the sitting president of the United States. "I certainly wouldn't be here without social media because I certainly don't get fair press."

The president again claimed he never spoke directly to his attorney general about Mr Stone's case. Last week, Mr Trump fired off a tweet floating the notion the Justice Department would back down from a nine-year sentencing recommendation for Mr Stone before the department announced it would do just that. Mr Barr conducted a television interview criticising the tweet, and others about DOJ business, while saying his boss had never spoken to him about any criminal case.

Mr Trump appeared to utter another false statement, saying Mr Stone "was not involved in our campaign at all."

In a classic Trumpian line, however, he had just said Mr Stone might have done work for the 2016 Trump campaign "long before I announced when he was somehow involved a little bit." Mr Stone has said he was one of those who helped talk Mr Trump into seeking the GOP nomination.

The president again contended he has "chosen to not be involved" in the Stone case but told reporters "I'm allowed to be totally involved."

"I'm actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country," said Mr Trump, newly emboldened after his Senate acquittal on two impeachment charges.

Asked if he is considering a pardon for Mr Stone, the president replied, "I haven't given it any thought."

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