Late on Saturday, President Trump lashed out at a pair of Republican senators after they criticized his decision to commute the prison sentence of long-time confidant and former campaign adviser Roger Stone.
In a tweet, Trump accused Senators Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey of being “RINOS,” a pejorative meaning “Republican in name only.”
“Do RINO’S Pat Toomey & Mitt Romney have any problem with the fact that we caught Obama, Biden, & Company illegally spying on my campaign?” Trump asked in a tweet, claiming that an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election included “lying and leaking all the way.”
“NO!” he added.
Romney and Toomey are so far the only Republican senators to publicly rebuke Trump’s move to commute Stone’s sentence. The former Republican operative was due to report to prison on Tuesday to serve a 40-month sentence for crimes uncovered in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Stone was convicted on seven felony charges, including lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a proceeding.
But on Friday, the White House announced that Trump had granted Stone clemency. Trump, who had previously hinted at intervening in Stone’s case, argued after the decision that Stone “was targeted by an illegal Witch Hunt.” White House press Kayleigh McEnany also claimed in a statement that Stone was the “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.”
The move was roundly denounced by Democrats. Romney, a vocal Trump critic and the only Republican to vote to impeach him earlier this year, also said in a tweet that the move amounted to “unprecedented, historic corruption.”
“An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” Romney said.
Toomey called Trump’s move a “mistake,” noting that Attorney General William Barr had called Stone’s prosecution “righteous” and the sentencing “fair.” Justice Department leadership in February moved to reduce Stone’s initial seven- to ten-year sentencing recommendation.
“The president clearly has the legal and constitutional authority to grant clemency for federal crimes,” Toomey said in a statement. “However, this authority should be used judiciously and very rarely by any president.”
Stone was one of several Trump associates to be charged in connection to Mueller’s investigation. The probe concluded last year that the campaign did not conspire with Russia, noting, however, that it welcomed Moscow’s efforts.
In a rare move, Mueller on Saturday publicly defended the integrity of the probe. In a Washington Post op-ed, he said Stone “remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”
He noted that he felt compelled to respond to “both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office.”
“Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes,” he said.