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Tags: jonathanturley | commutation | clemency | law | power | stone

Turley: Stone Clemency 'Chaste in Comparison'

supporters of roger stone carry a banner in his defense
Supporters of former presidential advisor Roger Stone on February 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By    |   Sunday, 12 July 2020 09:26 AM EDT

President Donald Trump critics are rebuking his commutation of Roger Stone's sentence as "pristine power besmirched by a rogue president," but the "sordid history of pardons makes it look positively chaste in comparison," according to constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley. 

"There is lots to criticize in this move without pretending it was a pristine power besmirched by a rogue president," Turley wrote in an op-ed for The Hill.

"Indeed, Trump should have left the decision to a successor or, at a minimum, to the attorney general. But compared to the other presidents, this commutation is not even a distant contender for 'the most corrupt and cronyistic act' of clemency."

The "cronyistic" quote came from CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, Turley began in breaking down how the Stone clemency is far less controversial than anti-Trump media is making it out to be.

"Despite my disagreement with the commutation, that claim is almost quaint," Turley wrote of Toobin. "The sordid history of pardons makes it look positively chaste in comparison. Many presidents have found the power of pardons to be an irresistible temptation when it involves family, friends, and political allies."

Turley, a self-proclaimed Democrat who testified on behalf of Democrats in the House impeachment inquiry, noted the Stone pardon is par for the course of past administrations – including former President Bill Clinton who "committed some of the worst abuses of this power."

"In reality, the commutation of Stone barely stands out in the old gallery of White House pardons, which are the most consistently and openly abused power in the Constitution, Turley wrote. "This authority under Article Two is stated in absolute terms, and some presidents have wielded it with absolute abandon."

After citing a myriad controversial presidential pardons throughout history, Turley laid out the "legitimate questions raised about the Stone case."

"The biggest issue was that the foreperson of the trial jury was also actually a Democratic activist and an outspoken critic of Trump and his associates who even wrote publicly about the Stone case," Turley wrote. "Despite multiple opportunities to do so, she never disclosed her prior statements and actions that would have demonstrated such bias. Judge Amy Berman Jackson shrugged off all that, however, and refused to grant Stone a new trial, denying him the most basic protection in our system.

"Moreover, I think both the court and the Justice Department were wrong to push for Stone going to prison at this time, because he meets all of the criteria for an inmate at high risk for exposure to the coronavirus. None of that, however, justifies Trump becoming involved in a commutation, when many of the issues could have been addressed in a legal appeal."

All told, Turley concluded "Stone deserved another trial, but not a pardon."

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Politics
President Donald Trump critics are rebuking his commutation of Roger Stone's sentence as "pristine power besmirched by a rogue president," but the "sordid history of pardons makes it look positively chaste in comparison," according to constitutional law expert Jonathan...
jonathanturley, commutation, clemency, law, power, stone
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2020-26-12
Sunday, 12 July 2020 09:26 AM
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