Roger Stone Says Trump's Most Recent Pardon Was a Clear 'Signal' to His Associates - And to Robert Mueller
From the moment President Donald Trump announced his pardon Thursday of conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, observers began pointing out that the move looked like an attempt to signal to his associates that he's willing to use the pardon power as a weapon against special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
While those claims remained largely in the realm of speculation at first, by Thursday night one Trump ally, Roger Stone, told the Washington Post that he had received the message that loud and clear:
“It has to be a signal to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort and even Robert S. Mueller III: Indict people for crimes that don’t pertain to Russian collusion and this is what could happen,” Stone said. “The special counsel has awesome powers, as you know, but the president has even more awesome powers.”
Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia during Trump's transition, while Manafort is fighting various charges related to money laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent. Since Mueller has the authority to prosecute any crimes that arise from his investigation, and he may use charges on other crimes as a technique to gain leverage to uncover other crucial facts, there's no plausible justification for the idea that any crime unrelated to Russian collusion could merit a pardon.
And though Stone says the signal is for Flynn and Manafort, it's just as plausible that it would be a signal for Stone himself, who is known to have faced scrutiny from Mueller's team. Should he ended up indicted, he may take comfort in the fact that Trump has expressed his willingness to issue pardons.
One of the key features of Trump's pardon of D'Souza is the fact that it did not go through the typical Justice Department evaluation process — the president acted unilaterally. This lack of official process — though entirely legal in itself — serves to send the message that Trump is not constrained by the norms governing the use of pardons and other presidential powers.