After the FBI raided ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in April 2018, an attorney told him that he could “sleep well tonight” because he had “friends in high places.” That was immediately interpreted as pardon dangling amid a federal investigation, in part, of the infamous Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal hush payments which Cohen would later say in court President Donald Trump “directed.” Fast forward to 2020, and President Trump said Thursday morning on Twitter that his longtime advisor Roger Stone can “sleep well at night,” pretty much promising a pardon.
Let’s look at the context.
Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk tweeted on Tuesday that his followers should “[n]ever forget” that convicted felon Roger Stone will “serve more time in prison than 99% of these rioters destroying America.”
“All because he supports Donald Trump,” Kirk said. “This isn’t justice.”
“RT for a full pardon of Roger Stone!” he concluded.
Guess who retweeted Kirk’s tweet which said that a retweet equals an endorsement of a Stone pardon? President Trump. But this was a retweet with comment that also reinforced the idea that Trump was promising a pardon for his friend.
“No,” Trump began, presumably referring to the prospect of Stone serving more prison time than rioters. “Roger was a victim of a corrupt and illegal Witch Hunt, one which will go down as the greatest political crime in history.”
“He can sleep well at night!” Trump added, repeating the pardon dangling phraseology of yesteryear.
It didn’t take long for reporters to make that connection.
In a recent interview, Stone also said that he was victim of witch hunt. Unlike Cohen, Stone never flipped. President Trump recognized this in a May 20 tweet. The president quoted Stone’s remark that he would “never give false testimony against [Trump].” In the past, Trump said it was “[n]ice to know” that “some people” (Stone) still have “guts” not to make up lies about him.
On May 22, Stone said that he was “finally able to say for the first time since the beginning that I am the victim of a witch hunt. I am the victim of a political prosecution.” He said the charges for witness tampering, obstruction and lying to congressional investigators were trumped-up and the result of a “legal proctological examination.” Stone was sentenced to 40 months behind bars but hasn’t had to report to prison yet.
Michael Cohen once told former special counsel Mueller that he understood he had to stay on message if he was going to get a pardon.
“At the time, Cohen understood that his legal fees were still being paid by the Trump Organization, which he said was important to him. Cohen believed he needed the power of the president to take care of him, so he needed to defend the president and stay on message,” the Mueller report said. “Cohen also recalled speaking with the president’s personal counsel about pardons after the searches of his home and office had occurred, at a time when the media had reported that pardon discussions were occurring at the White House.”
The Mueller report also said attorney Robert Costello’s “friends in high places” email was evidence that “could support the inference that the president intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government because Cohen’s information would shed adverse light on the president’s campaign-period conduct and statements.”
At trial, prosecutors said that Stone lied to protect Trump during the Russia probe.
[Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
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