United States President Donald Trump has commuted the more than three-year prison sentence of his former aide and friend Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering during the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.
In a statement, the White House said Stone was a “victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.
“These charges were the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice,” the White House said.
The White House alleged an attempt to “manufacture the false impression of criminality” once investigators did not find evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia.
Trump’s executive action is one step short of a presidential pardon, which would have absolved Stone of guilt.
Instead, the action eliminates Stone’s 40-month sentence, but he is still considered a convicted criminal.
“Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” the White House said in a statement that mirrored Trump’s twitter rhetoric. “Roger Stone is now a free man!”
He was sentenced in February this year and was due to report to prison to start his sentence on Tuesday.
A self-described “dirty trickster,” 67-year-old Stone is an eccentric, and long-time Republican political operative going back to the 1970s.
Stone, who worked on the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, was found guilty on seven charges last year.
He was accused of lying to congressional investigators about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks, which had obtained emails from Hillary Clinton’s team – allegedly hacked by Russian operatives – that were then leaked and used to discredit the Democratic candidate for president and bolster Trump’s campaign.
Democrat Adam Schiff, who led the investigation into Russian collusion in the United States House of Representatives, said the decision is “among the most offensive” of Trump’s actions.
Meanwhile, Stone is also seeking to overturn his conviction through a still pending appeal.
“With this commutation, Trump makes clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else,” Schiff said.
“Donald Trump, (Attorney General) Bill Barr, and all those who enable them pose the gravest of threats to the rule of law.”
Trump has previously used his relatively unchecked presidential power to issue commutations and pardons to political supporters and acquaintances, including a former New York City police commissioner and financier Michael Milken.
Stone’s conviction and sentencing sparked uproar amid accusations of interference from Trump after Attorney General Bill Barr changed the federal government’s sentencing recommendation to “far less” than the initial request.
The four prosecutors working the case subsequently resigned, in an apparent protest.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Trump supporters to get temperature checks, hand sanitizer, masks at Tulsa rally
Supporters of United States President Donald Trump will receive temperature checks, hand sanitizer and masks before entering his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma later this week, manager of the reelection campaign said Monday.
There will be precautions for the heat and bottled water as well, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told CNBC that masks will be optional but each attendee of the Tulsa rally will receive one.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, Trump claimed Oklahoma “has done very well” in addressing the coronavirus outbreak.
“Oklahoma is at a very low number,” Trump said. “They’ve done really fantastic work.”
As of Monday, there were more than 8,400 coronavirus infections in Oklahoma with 359 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Nationwide, there have been over 2.1 million confirmed cases and more than 116,000 deaths.
United States Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday that Oklahoma has “flattened the curve.”
“Their hospital capacity is abundant. The number of cases in Oklahoma — it’s declined precipitously, and we feel very confident going forward with the rally this coming weekend,” Pence said.
After a public outcry against its timing, Trump rescheduled the Tulsa rally, originally scheduled for Friday, the Juneteenth, a day that memorializes the end of slavery in the United States. Tulsa was home to one of the worst incidents of racial violence in the nation’s history, where many African Americas were massacred 99 years ago.
The rally will come after nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota last month.
The editorial board of Tulsa World, a local newspaper, on Monday called on Trump to reconsider hosting the rally.
“Tulsa and the nation remain on edge after the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis,” the board wrote. “There may also be confrontation and inappropriate behavior from some.”
It also added that the city “is still dealing with the challenges created by a pandemic.”
“The city and state have authorized reopening, but that doesn’t make a mass indoor gathering of people pressed closely together and cheering a good idea,” according to the editorial. “There is no treatment for COVID-19 and no vaccine. It will be our health care system that will have to deal with whatever effects follow.”
Trump pushed back against the criticism, tweeting on Monday that the “Far Left Fake News Media” is “trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies” despite having “no problem” with the massive protests that have formed across the nation following Floyd’s death.
“Won’t work!” Trump tweeted.
A registration form for the Tulsa rally says, “By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.”
“By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.,” as well as the rally site or organizers, “liable for any illness or injury.”
On Monday, Trump also tried to downplay concerns over a rising number of coronavirus cases in some states, attributing them to more testing.
“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“Without testing, or weak testing, we would be showing almost no cases,” he said additionally in a tweet. “Testing is a double edged sword – Makes us look bad, but good to have!!!”
Spotlight: Trump to sign executive order on police reform amid intensifying outcry
United States President Donald Trump said on Monday that he will sign an executive order on police reform on Tuesday.
“The overall goal is we want law and order and we want it done fairly, justly. We want it done safely,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“This is about law and order, but it’s about justice also,” he said.
The move comes amid growing calls for action following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota late last month, which has triggered nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racism.
The outcry has intensified after a white police officer shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old African American man, in Atlanta, Georgia last week.
“The trust that we have with the police force is broken and the only way to heal some of these wounds is through a conviction and a drastic change with the police department,” Brooks’s cousin said Monday.
Asked about the Brooks case on Monday afternoon, Trump called it “very disturbing.”
“I thought it was a terrible situation,” he said. “I studied it closely. I’m going to get some reports done today, very strong reports, and we’ll have a little more to say about it tomorrow.”
Brooks was shot twice in the back and died from organ damage and blood loss from the wounds, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement on Sunday.
Garrett Rolfe, the officer who shot Brooks, was fired. A second officer, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned over the shooting.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said his office is hoping to announce a decision about possible charges by the middle of next week.
Brooks died after a confrontation with police officers who were responding to a complaint that he was asleep in the drive-thru of a restaurant.
Police said the officers tried to take Brooks into custody after he failed a sobriety test, which led to a struggle between the two sides. Police claimed that Brooks, while allegedly resisting, grabbed an officer’s Taser and ran off with it.
Footage capturing the scene from the restaurant’s parking lot showed that Brooks turned around and appeared to point the stun gun at the police officers before being shot.
An ambulance transferred Brooks to a local hospital, where he died after undergoing surgery.
The shooting prompted protests over the weekend in Atlanta, and the restaurant where the shooting took place was set aflame.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced on Monday that she is signing a series of administrative orders to reform the use of force within the Atlanta Police Department.
Bottoms, speaking to reporters, said that she and the city will continue to do what the city needs to do to ensure all Atlantans are treated with dignity and respect.
“We saw the worst happen on Friday night with Mr. Brooks. It angered me and it saddened me beyond words,” she said. “Burning down buildings will not get us change in this city because if anything it is going to erase the message and it is going to eclipse what this is all about.”
Trump goes after Bolton over memoir
“Maybe he’s not telling the truth, he’s been known not to tell the truth, a lot,” Trump told reporters during a White House meeting with cabinet members.
“I will consider every conversation with me highly classified,” he claimed. “If he wrote a book and the book gets out, he’s broken the law and I would think you would have criminal problems.”
The president also asked Attorney General William Barr to weigh in on the issue.
Barr said that the administration didn’t believe Bolton had completed the process by which books are cleared by the executive branch for publication.
Bolton plans to release his memoir, “The Room Where it Happened,” on June 23.
A foreign policy hawk and Trump’s third national security adviser, Bolton was ousted last year over disagreements with the president on a range of issues.
Trump announces cutting United States troops in Germany to 25,000
United States President Donald Trump said on Monday that the number of United States troops deployed in Germany would be reduced to 25,000 due to Germany’s insufficient defense spending.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump confirmed the number of United States soldiers in Germany would reduce to 25,000.
“Germany as you know is very delinquent in their payments to NATO,” Trump told reporters at the White House, adding that United States troops would redeploy to Germany until it pays.
Currently, there are about 35,000 United States troops deployed in Germany.
Former United States Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told German media outlet Bild Live last week that “American taxpayers no longer feel like paying too much for the defense of other countries.”
“There will still be 25,000 soldiers in Germany, that’s no small number,” added the Trump loyalist.
United States media reported early this month that Trump had directed the Pentagon to reduce United States military presence in Germany by September, which drew oppositions among United States lawmakers.
Last week 22 Republican members of Congress warned Trump that a significant force drawdown in Europe would serve Russia’s interests at the expense of United States national security.
The reduction might further strain the relations between Washington and Berlin. The two allies have been at odds with each other on Iran nuclear issues, Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, and defense burden-sharing, among others.
Trump has been repeatedly complaining that United States allies exploited his country on defense spending. In his remarks to graduates of the United States Military Academy over the weekend, Trump emphasized the United States military is not the policemen of the world.