Former special counsel Robert Mueller defended his investigation of Roger Stone on Saturday after President Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence for his longtime friend.
“We made every decision in Stone’s case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law,” Mueller wrote in an op-ed at The Washington Post.
“The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity,” he continued. “Claims to the contrary are false.”
“The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so,” Mueller added.
Trump commuted Stone’s prison sentence on Friday, days before he was set to begin a 40-month stint at a federal prison in Georgia.
Stone, 67, was convicted on Nov. 15 on charges that he made false statements to Congress about his discussions related to WikiLeaks, the group that released emails hacked from Democrats during the 2016 campaign. Stone was also convicted on a charge of obstructing a congressional investigation and witness tampering.
The White House took a direct shot at Mueller’s team of prosecutors in an announcement of the clemency for Stone.
“Mr. Stone was charged by the same prosecutors from the Mueller Investigation tasked with finding evidence of collusion with Russia,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEneny said in a statement on Friday.
“Because no such evidence exists, however, they could not charge him for any collusion-related crime,” she continued. “Instead, they charged him for his conduct during their investigation. The simple fact is that if the Special Counsel had not been pursuing an absolutely baseless investigation, Mr. Stone would not be facing time in prison.”
Mueller said that “Stone became a central figure in our investigation for two key reasons.”
He said that Stone “communicated in 2016 with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers, and he claimed advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ release of emails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers.”
Mueller did not identify the Russian intelligence officers who were allegedly in communication with Stone. He may be referring to Guccifer 2.0, who is believed to be an online persona that Russian intelligence used to release some of the emails hacked from Democrats.
Stone had two known exchanges with Guccifer 2.0 in August and September 2016. The messages were seemingly benign, with no discussions about stolen emails. In an Aug. 14, 2016 message, Stone congratulated Guccifer 2.0 on being reinstated after a Twitter suspension. Two days later, Stone sent a link to an article in The Hill about the election.
Mueller noted in the Post article that his team did not find evidence of a conspiracy involving any Trump associates and Russians. Mueller also said in a report of his investigation that there was no evidence that anyone affiliated with Trump was involved in emails hacks or releasing stolen emails.