Washington • Sen. Mitt Romney on Saturday morning blasted President Donald Trump’s commutation of longtime confidant Roger Stone, calling it “historic corruption.”
Trump on Friday night commuted the prison sentence of Stone, who was unanimously convicted by a federal jury of lying to Congress and obstructing justice. Stone was set to begin a 40-month prison sentence Tuesday.
Romney, a Utah Republican who voted to convict Trump of abuse of power in the Senate impeachment trial, was one of the first Republicans to speak out over Trump’s use of his executive authority to help Stone.
“Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” Romney tweeted early Saturday.
Stone had been convicted in the wide-ranging probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, an investigation Trump continues to claim was a “hoax” perpetrated to undermine his presidency.
“Not only was Mr. Stone charged by overzealous prosecutors pursing a case that never should have existed, and arrested in an operation that never should have been approved, but there were also serious questions about the jury in the case,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement Friday night.
“The forewoman of his jury, for example, concealed the fact that she is a member of the so-called liberal ‘resistance’ to the Trump Presidency,” added McEnany. “In now-deleted tweets, this activist-juror vividly and openly attacked President Trump and his supporters.”
McEnany responded to Romney’s tweet by hitting former President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden.
“The only ‘unprecedented, historic corruption’ that occurred was during the Obama-Biden administration when they used a Democrat-funded dossier full of lies to spy on the Trump campaign and set off a three-year witch hunt ending in the complete exoneration of President Trump,” McEnany told The Salt Lake Tribune in an email.
The nearly two-year investigation of Trump by special counsel Robert Mueller did not exonerate the president, with Mueller’s final report noting his team didn’t determine whether the president committed any crimes because of a longstanding Justice Department precedent against indicting a sitting president.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who competed with Biden for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted that he and Romney disagree about “virtually everything. But I agree with him strongly that Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence is ‘unprecedented, historic corruption.‘”
Sanders then criticized Romney’s Republican colleagues for not speaking up about it.
“The key political question of our time is: Where are all the other Republicans?” he asked.
Romney and Trump, who once openly supported each other, have become bitter enemies of late, with the Utah senator frequently speaking out about Trump’s actions or rhetoric, and the president returning the criticism.
“I’m not a fan of Mitt Romney,” the president said in response to a question by The Tribune in April.
Stone, who continues to claim his innocence, had said previously that Trump would likely help him because, while he had the option to turn on the president and likely yield lesser charges, he didn’t.
Stone is seeking a new trial in the case and believes he’ll be vindicated.
Trump was also active on Twitter early Saturday, posting multiple comments about reopening schools in the fall, Obama, Biden and the “Fake News” Russia probe that nabbed several people in the president’s orbit with federal charges.
“Roger Stone was targeted by an illegal Witch Hunt that never should have taken place,” Trump tweeted. “It is the other side that are criminals, including Biden and Obama, who spied on my campaign - AND GOT CAUGHT!”
Trump tweeted later Saturday night, mentioning Romney in an apparent response.