Trump is not in Washington with any sense of a mission or dedication to the defense of the public good, but rather only interested in his own well-being.
The president of the United States is using his executive powers for his own benefit or, as is the case now, for his protection. Last Friday, Donald Trump commuted the 40-month prison sentence of his friend, former counselor and guru, Roger Stone.
This deference is easy to explain, but also impossible to accept, in any regime. Stone was convicted of lying to Congress, manipulating witnesses and obstructing investigations regarding Russian interference in the election in which Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. In this bizarre, sort of anti-“Rocky” script, in which it is the Kremlin that chooses who sits in the Oval Office, Stone the president of the United States praised Stone multiple times for his courageous resistance to “the out-of-control Mueller prosecutors” who searched for proof of foreign interference in the United States.
Stone is a key protagonist in this script, and he knows this well, as the public pressure campaign to pardon him intensified the closer we got to the date he was due to begin his sentence. Trump also knows this, and chose to reward silence and block any scandalous revelations.
Naturally, the Democratic Party reacted to this ostentatiously obscene commutation, accusing the president of behaving like a mob boss as he launched an attack on the rule of law and engaged in an abuse of power. But it would have been much more significant if Republicans, assuming they wished to be seen as anything other than a conglomerate of opportunistic interests, had stood up and condemned the actions of a president who dignified neither country nor party. The exception appears to have been Mitt Romney, who characterized it as an act of “unprecedented, historic corruption.” There is much of “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos” sagas in this commutation episode, as well as in the past stories about the president’s men who have been brought to justice.
Morgan Pehme, Daniel DiMauro and Dylan Bank, directors of the “Get Me Roger Stone” documentary on Netflix, recently suggested that “after all they’ve been through together, it’s fitting that Mr. Stone and Mr. Trump have arrived simultaneously at a moment of great need. Mr. Trump has now rescued Mr. Stone, but can Mr. Stone return the favor?” After all, it was Stone who launched the idea of a presidential campaign, who was initially in charge of it, and who is in possession of the largest arsenal of dirty tricks essential to the manipulation of social media in a reelection campaign. Stone may well be the very person Trump needs for an eventual second term in the Oval Office.