Trump defends Roger Stone move: He was target of 'Witch Hunt'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE on Saturday morning defended his decision to commute the prison sentence for his longtime associate and political confidant Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneNew HBO documentary lets Gaetz, Massie, Buck offer their take on how to 'drain the swamp' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Brawls on Capitol Hill on Barr and COVID-19 Democrats blister Barr during tense hearing MORE, claiming Stone was the victim of a "Witch Hunt."

"Roger Stone was targeted by an illegal Witch Hunt that never should have taken place. It is the other side that are criminals, including the fact that Biden and Obama illegally spied on my campaign - AND GOT CAUGHT!" Trump tweeted.

The White House announced Friday night that Trump had granted clemency for Stone, a campaign adviser for his 2016 White House bid who had been sentenced to more than three years in prison in connection with former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s Russia investigation.

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Trump commuted Stone's sentence four days before the Republican operative was set to report to prison.

Democrats blasted Trump's move on Friday, which marked the latest high-profile pardon or commutation issued by the president.

“Donald Trump has abandoned the rule of law and made a mockery of our democracy. He truly is the most corrupt president in history,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down Democratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports MORE (D-Mass.), a former presidential candidate. 

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee — the panel Stone was convicted of having lied to — asserted that Trump's action regarding Stone was his most "self-serving and destructive" move yet.

Schiff said that "commuting the sentence of Roger Stone, a crony who lied and obstructed our investigation to protect Trump himself, is among the most offensive to the rule of law and principles of justice." 

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Stone was convicted last year of lying to Congress in connection with its investigation into Russian election interference, witness tampering and obstructing an official proceeding.

Trump has long blasted the prosecutors involved in the case and criticized the Obama-appointed judge who oversaw the trial. 

Stone maintained his innocence throughout his trial and attempted to appeal his conviction. Trump's move Friday was announced an hour after a federal appeals court denied Stone's emergency motion to delay the start of his prison term.

The GOP operative was the sixth Trump associate to be charged in connection with Mueller's probe. The investigation did not establish that Trump's campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election but detailed a series of contacts and found the campaign welcomed Russia's intervention.

The president has consistently derided the investigation, which unfolded over the first two years of his presidency, and blasted efforts to pursue prosecution of his political allies.