President Trump blasted Roger Stone's treatment by the criminal justice system, the Justice Department and the jury forewoman in the GOP operative's trial Thursday in a blistering address in front of an audience in Las Vegas, saying Stone has a “very good chance of exoneration.”
His remarks, part of a speech to the organization Hope for Prisoners, came hours after a federal judge sentenced Stone to over three years in prison.
“Roger Stone has a very good chance of exoneration in my opinion,” Trump told the crowd of ex-convicts who recently had completed a career training program and would soon reintegrate into society.
Trump also claimed Stone was “never” involved in his 2016 campaign for the presidency. “I think long before I announced, he did a little consulting work or something,” the president said.
Trump said that Stone, though “definitely a character,” was a “very good person,” and that the jury in his sentencing had been tainted by an anti-Trump activist. “These people know more about bad juries than anyone else, the sheriff, the mayor. You're my experts, OK?” he told the room of previously incarcerated people. He said the jury forewoman “started going a little wild, was very happy,” when Roger Stone was determined to be guilty of obstruction last year, and it was later revealed she had a social media account full of anti-Trump posts which she did not disclose to the courts.
The jury forewoman, Tomeka Hart, even posted specifically about the Stone case before she was selected to sit on the jury, as she retweeted an argument mocking those who considered Stone's dramatic arrest in a predawn raid by a federal tactical team to be excessive force. She also suggested Trump and his supporters were racist and praised the investigation conducted by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which ultimately led to Stone's prosecution.
Justice Department prosecutors initially had sought a sentence of up to nine years for Stone, but senior officials at the department later called for a lesser sentence. Attorney General William Barr’s move to intervene in Stone’s sentencing led to all four members of the prosecution team quitting the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Thursday also said the initial recommendation was excessive. Her sentence of 40 months in prison was considerably less than that -- yet far more than the probation sought by his defense.
Trump announced to the crowd that he would be considering the program’s founder, John Ponder, for a full pardon. Ponder, an ex-convict himself, started the program 11 years ago and Trump said he had a “feeling” Ponder would get the full pardon.
Trump talked about previous pardons he had issued, adding that he “loves” finding those treated unfairly by the criminal justice system and offering them pardons.
“When I learned about the case of Alice Johnson, it was clear to me that there were injustices in our sentencing laws that caused people who made small mistakes to pay a huge price,” Trump said. Alice Johnson was a great-grandmother who had been in jail for more than 20 years, serving a life sentence for non-violent drug charges. Johnson walked free in June after Trump commuted her sentence.
Earlier this week, Trump granted clemency not only to political figures like ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and ex-NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, but also incarcerated people such as the three recommended by Johnson who walked free Tuesday.
“We have thousands of people in prison like Alice Johnson,” Trump said. “I love finding those people, the thousands of people in prison who shouldn't be there.”
Trump boasted of his criminal justice reform package signed in December 2018. Trump said that “people on all sides” were starting to “love” criminal justice reform.
“In order to redress the unfairness of the justice system, one year ago I passed criminal justice reform. Others tried and failed. They didn't try too hard because they knew it couldn't be done, I got it done.”
Trump told the crowd of 29 graduates, “the best part of your life is just beginning.”
“You’re going to be so successful you’re going to say, ‘I’m going to be more successful than Trump,’ and I’m going to be happy about it,” Trump told the room of former convicts.
“Today we declare that you are made by God for a great and noble purpose. You are valued members of our American family and we are determined to help you succeed,” the president said.
Fox News' Brooke Singman, Bill Mears and Gregg Re contributed to this report.