Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of US President Donald Trump, reacts after Trump commuted his federal prison sentence. Picture: Joe Skipper/Reuters
Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of US President Donald Trump, reacts after Trump commuted his federal prison sentence. Picture: Joe Skipper/Reuters

Donald Trump is setting a dangerous precedent for misuse of presidential power

By Shannon Ebrahim Time of article published Aug 4, 2020

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The rule of law in the US has perhaps never been under such threat as it is today.

Even senior Republican Senator Mitt Romney has expressed his shock at the unprecedented corruption of the administration, particularly referring to the president’s recent commutation of the sentence of his long-time ally and adviser Roger Stone.

In the words of Romney: “An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”

Romney was referring to the fact that Stone lied to the US Congress about his efforts to find what Wikileaks had in terms of hacked emails designed to damage the electoral campaign of Hillary Clinton.

He also tampered with a witness by threatening a radio talk show host with death unless he lied to Congress about Stone’s role in the back channelling of Wikileaks information.

Altogether Stone faced seven charges, and the jury found that he had lied repeatedly to Congress.

Former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort had told Robert Mueller that Stone knew of Wikileaks releases of Clinton campaign emails before they happened. Stone had also spoken to Trump about the releases before they happened.

By commuting Stone’s 40-month jail sentence, Trump had rewarded him for his silence, probably out of concern that Stone had too much dirt on him. Trump’s commutation of the jail sentence of his friend sets a dangerous precedent in terms of the misuse of presidential power.

For those not well versed on the dark legacy of Roger Stone on American politics, it is worth watching the jaw-dropping documentary Roger Stone on Netflix to understand how this Machiavellian character has manipulated election campaigns and public opinion to ensconce the most right-wing candidates in the White House, ever since he was a 25-year- old adviser to Richard Nixon and even dirtied his hands in the Watergate scandal.

Stone has neither boundaries nor ethics. He will stop at nothing to get his candidate elected, including fabricating evidence against their opponents and manipulating the media into believing his alt-right narrative. It is Stone’s messaging that has been behind Trump’s worst excesses, from the time Trump parroted Stone’s chant of “lock her up”, referring to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign, to “we will build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it”, to a plethora of statements bordering on racism and fascism.

Stone has intentionally played on the racist underbelly of American society, whipping up the anger and resentment of the far right against minorities, African-Americans, immigrants and liberals.

One of the most shocking revelations in the documentary on Stone was his behind-the-scenes work as a political consultant in the Reagan and Bush eras, when he courted African dictators such as Mobutu Sese Seko, Siad Barre, Ferdinand Marcos and Jonas Savimbi. According to “The Torturer’s Lobby”, a report published by The Centre for Public Integrity, Stone’s consulting firm received $3.3million in the early 1990s for their work with dictators, ensuring the worst human rights abusers’ influence with the White House.

For Stone “morality is weakness”, and he enjoys being loathed as the devil behind American politics.

The scary part is that he will now be campaigning for Trump’s re-election over the next four months.

* Ebrahim is the group foreign editor for Independent Media

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