President Donald Trump expressed hope on Thursday that political operative Roger Stone would be freed, but he stopped short of announcing a presidential pardon or commutation.
“I’m following this very closely and I want to see it play out to its fullest because Roger has a very good chance of exoneration in my opinion,” Trump said on Thursday.
The president spoke at a Hope for Prisoners Graduation Ceremony, where former inmates got their diplomas.
Trump said that he had known Stone and his family for many years and that the infamous political operative never had an official role in the Trump campaign but had done some consulting work for him over the years.
“Roger is definitely a character … he’s a smart guy, he’s a little different, but those are sometimes the most interesting,” he said.
Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison on Thursday for lying to Congress and obstructing a congressional investigation.
The president also questioned whether Stone’s jury had been tainted after anti-Trump social media posts emerged that were posted by the forewoman of the jury.
“It’s my strong opinion that the forewoman of the jury, the woman who was in charge of the jury is totally tainted when you take a look, how can you have a person like this?” Trump asked, describing her as an “anti-Trump activist.”
The forewoman, former Memphis City Schools Board President Tomeka Hart, posted specific things about Stone’s case on social media even before she sat on the jury. She also cheered on Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and described Trump supporters as racist.
“How can you have a jury pool tainted so badly?” Trump asked.
Trump joked with the former inmates about tainted juries, suggesting that they might understand the unfairness of the court system.
“I’m here to make a fair system,” he said.
He also expressed frustration that former FBI Director James Comey and others were not prosecuted, despite evidence that they also lied to Congress and leaked classified documents.
“What happened to him is unbelievable, they say he lied, but other people lied too. Comey lied, McCabe lied, Lisa Page lied, her lover Peter Strock lied,” he said. “You don’t know who these people are, trust me, they lied.”
Trump said he would continue battling the system, especially in Washington, DC.
“A lot of bad things are happening, we’re clearing the swamp, we’re draining the swamp, I just never knew how deep the swamp was,” he said.
Trump said he would wait to use his presidential pardon powers until the process played out.
“I’d love to see Roger exonerated, and I’d love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly,” he said, adding, “We’re going to see what it is.”
Trump also recalled former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deleting 33,000 emails after she was subpoenaed by Congress, reminding reporters that she was never prosecuted.
He did not say whether or not he would pardon Stone but hinted that he was interested.
“I’m not doing anything, I’m just sitting here, standing here talking to you, we’re waiting,” he said. “So I just want to let the fake news media know.”