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Free Roger Stone

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrPolice accountability board concludes that Seattle police officers used excessive force during encounters with protesters Trump hasn't asked Barr to open investigation into Bidens, McEnany says Seattle, Portland, NYC sue Trump administration over threat to pull federal money MORE is right that presidential tweets on Department of Justice (DOJ) cases make his job difficult in today’s super-charged political environment. But President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE is also right that the case of his associate, Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneTrump grants clemency to five nonviolent offenders Trump remarks put pressure on Barr DOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump MORE, is nothing but a political prosecution that, until the president tweeted about it, got little attention or examination.

For all the hullabaloo about Trump’s tweets, which are nothing more than an expression of opinion, remember that in five of the last six special or independent counsel investigations, such interventions were not at all unusual. Both Democratic and Republican presidents pardoned numerous figures caught in the penumbra of those probes, especially those prosecuted for process crimes. President George H.W. Bush pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger even before his trial for allegedly lying to an independent counsel; President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage Trump expected to bring Hunter Biden's former business partner to debate Davis: On eve of tonight's debate — we've seen this moment in history before MORE pardoned most of the Whitewater figures who were his friends, and even President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOvernight Health Care: Trump testing czar says rise in cases is real | Obama rips Trump's pandemic response | CDC: Increasing numbers of adults say they wear masks Trump calls Fox 'disappointing' for airing Obama speech Trump blasts Obama speech for Biden as 'fake' after Obama hits Trump's tax payments MORE pardoned Gen. James Cartwright, his “favorite general,” after Cartwright pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Just untangling what the Stone case is about can be a mindbender. Stone publicly bragged about a direct line to WikiLeaks, then downplayed or omitted in congressional interviews his contacts with radio host and political activist Randy Credico after acknowledging he had been in touch with Jerome Corsi, a well-known conspiracy theorist. He did not turn over to Congress these communications or a text to the Trump campaign that “the package” was coming. No actual contacts with WikiLeaks were found, and there was nothing illegal about any of these communications, so concealing them had no point. Stone then wrote some over-the-top texts to Credico with allusions to “The Godfather” and threatened Credico’s dog. Critically, Credico testified that he did not take these texts seriously based on his relationship with Stone. So, the “victim” of this intimidation saw them as typical Stone hyperbole.

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I wrote two articles about a year ago pointing out how misguided this case was and how unfair were the actions of the judge. Unlike the prosecutions of former Trump campaign manager Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump Bruce Ohr retires from DOJ Don't forget: The Trump campaign gave its most sensitive data to a Russian spy MORE and former Trump attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenMichael Cohen writing second book on Trump administration's Justice Department Bruce Ohr retires from DOJ Trump again asks Supreme Court to shield tax records MORE, Stone was accused of no financial crime, failure to file as a lobbyist, or any other business or financial malfeasance. This was not for lack of trying: Prosecutors went through every aspect of Stone’s life and called witnesses galore, even bringing in the “Manhattan Madame” to testify. But they obviously found nothing of interest. Yet, at the end of their investigation, long after they knew there was no Trump-Russia collusion, 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 prosecutors circled back to go after Stone as a parting gift of their $31 million investigation. Even though Stone’s infractions were of absolutely no consequence, they went after him with a vengeance.

Presumably, Stone’s “intimidating” texts then served as justification for arresting him with an armada of 26 armed officers, weapons drawn, and an amphibious unit out back in case he had a speedboat ready for a mad dash to Cuba or Venezuela. The raid, conveniently broadcast by CNN, telegraphed to the world that Stone was a danger to the republic of the highest order.

On top of this, Stone drew the same judge that threw Manafort into solitary confinement and denied him reasonable bail. Stone didn’t have a passport, so the judge was unable to repeat that here; instead, she issued a gag order, ostensibly to prevent him from tainting the jury pool — a pool that had been tainted by the very public raid that CNN was there to cover in all its armed glory.

New evidence of how tainted that pool was comes from the late-breaking fact that the jury foreman in Stone’s case had cheered on both the Mueller investigation and the very raid that arrested Stone. You see, in the eyes of this judge, there was no problem with that raid; the problem was in letting Stone defend himself in public and raise funds for his defense. The gag order remained in place, remarkably, even after the jury was picked and deliberated — when the First Amendment’s prior restraint had no purpose whatsoever but to shield the court from criticism and pressure Stone to cave rather than appeal.

Let’s review some of the lies told by others in the Trump and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGorsuch rejects Minnesota Republican's request to delay House race Biden leads Trump by 6 points in Nevada: poll The Memo: Women could cost Trump reelection MORE investigations that were not prosecuted:

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Not one of these lies has been prosecuted. Not even the documented “lack of candor” by fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeHillicon Valley: CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify before Senate | European Union police agency warns of increase in cybercrime | Twitter to remove posts hoping for Trump's death Graham officially schedules hearing on Trump's Supreme Court pick to start Oct. 12 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump eager to leave the hospital MORE, recorded on tape. Not even the doctoring of an email by a DOJ lawyer to try to affirm the surveillance of Page.

So what was the consequence of Roger Stone’s actions in his congressional testimony? Did he wholesale destroy records, snoop on Americans without justification, cause warrants to be issued falsely? No, there was absolutely no consequence to it, and any reasonable prosecutor would have dropped it or offered him the same jail sentence that another Trump campaign aide, George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosNot treason, not a crime — but definitely a gross abuse of power Tale of two FBI cases: Clinton got warned, Trump got investigated Trump says he would consider pardons for those implicated in Mueller investigation MORE, got — two weeks.

I am no fan of Stone’s tactics and history. I am a fan of an FBI and a DOJ that treat everyone equally.

The principal concern of the country’s Founders was that people not be railroaded by runaway prosecutions and public fury. Somehow, things have been turned upside down so that defending people who have the weight of the state thrown at them is seen as perverting our system of justice. (The system of pardons is yet another check on the power of runaway bureaucrats and prosecutors who wield power without facing the public for an election.)

Yes, in the age of Twitter, it’s very messy — but if there were not political prosecutions like Stone’s, Twitter might not be necessary.

Mark PennMark PennSwing-state polls suggest a narrowed path for Trump's reelection Exclusive poll: Biden up in Mich., Pa., tied with Trump in Fla. Biden holds 5-point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania: poll MORE is a managing partner of the Stagwell Group, a global organization of digital-first marketing companies, as well as chairman of the Harris Poll and author of “Microtrends Squared.” He also is CEO of MDC Partners, an advertising and marketing firm. He served as pollster and adviser to former President Clinton from 1995 to 2000, including during Clinton’s impeachment. You can follow him on Twitter @Mark_Penn.