Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s onetime lead lieutenant Andrew Weissmann wants to see former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone hauled before a grand jury in New York State.
“Time to put Roger Stone in the grand jury to find out what he knows about Trump but would not tell,” the onetime prosecutor and current New York University law professor wrote on Friday evening. “Commutation can’t stop that.”
Several political, media and legal figures erupted after President Donald Trump announced that he was commuting the sentence of his longtime friend under the often controversial presidential prerogative afforded by America’s founding charter.
The U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2 reads, in relevant part:
[H]e shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
“Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency,” the White House said in statement, which read like a Trump tweet, when announcing the commutation. “There was never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia. Such collusion was never anything other than a fantasy of partisans unable to accept the result of the 2016 election.”
Scholars, academics and pundits have often debated the reach and expanse of the clearly defined pardon power. Indeed, a cottage industry of op-eds devoted to incorrect musing about the limits of presidential pardons developed during the Trump administration as speculation ran rampant that the 45th president might attempt to pardon himself over various crimes.
What is clear about the pardon power’s end point, however, is the delineation between federal and state investigations, charges and prosecutions. A president has absolutely unlimited power to dispense with the former while the pardon clearly does not extend to the latter.
But in a somewhat curious turn, Weissmann called on the acting U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York (SDNY) to make headlines for herself by bringing Stone in for questioning before an as-yet not constituted–or at least as-yet not public–grand jury.
“Audrey Strauss: this is your moment to stand for the rule of law,” Weissmann tweeted.
But it’s unclear exactly why and for what reasons Stone would be of interest to the SDNY at the moment. There’s also the salient issue that the SDNY’s jurisdiction is federal–they are part of the U.S. Department of Justice–so any resulting charges, unless serially dragged out, would likely be extinguished by Trump yet again.
Weissmann does seem to have a nascent federal prosecution in mind here. Because Stone’s specific sentence was commuted and he was not issued a blanket pardon for all real, imagined or potential crimes in connection with the same set of facts, he could, theoretically, be charged for different reasons.
“Stone in [grand jury] has three choices: lie and risk prosecution, refuse to testify and be held in civil and criminal contempt or tell the truth,” he said. “Let’s do what we can to get at the truth.”
Many responses to his post argued in favor of a state prosecution instead.
Weissmann’s suggestion was met with some push back in terms of general efficacy. New York City-based attorney and legal writer Luppe B. Luppen lodged a gentle complaint.
“I respectfully disagree,” he wrote. “The president just demonstrated that he’ll endure political consequences to preserve Stone from punishment for lying to investigators, so Stone is unlikely to give it up in a grand jury room now.”
[image via screengrab/MSNBC]
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