President Donald Trump said his former adviser Roger Stone has “a very good chance of exoneration,” hours after the GOP operative was sentenced to 40 months behind bars for obstructing a congressional investigation of Russia’s 2016 presidential election meddling.
“I’m following this very closely, and I want to see it play out to its fullest, because Roger has a very good chance of exoneration, in my opinion,” Trump said Thursday in a speech at a Hope for Prisoners event in Las Vegas, where he also blasted the jury forewoman in Stone’s criminal trial.
“It’s my strong opinion that the forewoman for the jury is totally tainted,” Trump said, calling the woman he didn’t mention by name “an anti-Trump person, totally.” “I don’t know if this is a fact, but she had a horrible social media account,” he told the crowd and television cameras.
“She’s I guess from what I hear a very strong woman, a very dominant person, so she can get people to do whatever she wants,” he claimed.
“How can you have a jury pool tainted so badly? It’s not fair,” Trump said.
Lawyers for Stone, 67, had filed a motion asking for a new trial. Stone’s supporters have said it’s based on comments made by the jury forewoman, Tomeka Hart.
Hart ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012, a fact she disclosed during jury selection. Asked if she could fairly evaluate the evidence during the trial, she said yes, and Stone’s lawyers did not seek to have her removed from the jury pool.
The judge who presided over the trial, Amy Berman Jackson, pointedly praised jurors for their “integrity” at Stone’s sentencing. The judge also pushed back against Trump’s assertion that Stone had been treated unfairly, saying he was not prosecuted “for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
Glenn Kirschner, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and NBC/MSNBC legal analyst, called Trump’s comments “disturbing.”
“Now he’s attacking citizens called for jury service,” Kirschner said.
“Most people have political beliefs. They don’t disqualify you from sitting in a case like this.”
He said he attended the trial daily, and “there was no reasonable juror who could have concluded anything but Roger Stone was guilty.”
In his remarks, Trump gushed about Stone, calling the self-described political dirty trickster “a good person.”
“I’ve known Roger Stone and his wife, who’s really a terrific woman, for a long time and Roger is definitely a character. Everybody sort of knows Roger. Everybody knows him. And most people like him. Some people probably don’t, but I do and I always have,” Trump said. “He’s a smart guy. He’s a little different, but those are sometimes the most interesting.”
He also claimed Stone hadn’t worked for his presidential campaign, despite his campaign having announced Stone’s firing in 2015 and testimony in the criminal case that he was advising Trump throughout the 2016 election.
Trump also indicated that despite speculation to the contrary, he wants the court “process to play out” and would not give Stone a presidential pardon — yet.
“So if this woman was tainted, I hope the judge will find that she was tainted. And if she isn’t tainted, that will be fine, too. But I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States. I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do. Because I’d love to see Roger exonerated, and I’d love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly,” he said.
Trump advisers told NBC News that if the president decides to pardon Stone, they want him to wait until after the election so he doesn’t risk turning off undecided voters in swing states.
Peter Alexander contributed.