Sens. Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey became the first major Republican elected officials to criticize President Donald Trumps decision to commute the prison sentence of Roger Stone.
“Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” Utah senator Romney said Saturday morning on Twitter.
The tweet trended on the social media site, and shortly by Sunday morning had been “liked” over 580,000 times and retweeted over 166,000 times.
Trump late Saturday night lashed out at the pair on Twitter, calling them “RINOs” (Republicans in name only) and repeating an allegation that members of the Obama administration spied on his campaign.
Toomey’s criticism was mild, calling it the commutation a “mistake” in an emailed statement, and arguing that the decision should have been left to the court system.
“He was duly convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a congressional investigation conducted by a Republican-led committee,” wrote the senator from Pennsylvania.
“The president clearly has the legal and constitutional authority to grant clemency for federal crimes. However, this authority should be used judiciously and very rarely by any president. While I understand the frustration with the badly flawed Russia-collusion investigation, in my view, commuting Roger Stone’s sentence is a mistake.”
Trump on Friday issued a commutation for Stone, who’d been sentenced to three years in prison for witness tampering and lying to Congress. Stone had openly lobbied for a pardon or commutation from Trump by touting that he had refused to cooperate with investigators looking into possible wrongdoing by the president.
Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, was the lone Senate Republican to vote in favor of removing Trump from office at the conclusion of Trump’s impeachment trial in February. Last month he marched with anti-racism protesters near the White House who have been referred to by Trump as “terrorists.”
Romney’s outspoken behavior has led to him to be ostracized by the White House. Toomey is a reliable supporter of the president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office had no comment on Saturday. Most Republican office-holders have also remained silent on Trump’s move in the Stone case, or have been supportive.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham on Friday said he supported a reprieve for the long-time political operative.
“In my view it would be justified if President @realDonaldTrump decided to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence. Mr. Stone is in his 70s and this was a non-violent, first-time offense,” Graham tweeted on Friday.
Stone, who came to prominence working on President Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign, is actually 67.
Former South Carolina Representative Mark Sanford, who ran a brief and unsuccessful primary campaign against Trump last year, also criticized the Stone move on Saturday.
“So much for the Republican Party being the party of law and order,” Sanford said in a pair of tweets. “Pardoning someone who lies on behalf of one holding power is the mark of a third world banana republic.”
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