Roger Stone denies he protected Trump to secure commutation of sentence

Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, accompanied by his wife Nydia Stone, left, arrives at federal court in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz)

(CNN) — Longtime President Donald Trump friend and political adviser Roger Stone said Monday evening that he had not protected the President in exchange for a commutation, in his first TV interview since Trump commuted his prison sentence last week.

“People said, ‘You see, Stone had the goods on Trump and he traded his silence for a commutation.’ That is patently false. I never said that. I never implied that,” Stone told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “What I said has been consistent, that I would not lie against my friend of 40 years so they could use it for impeachment. They wanted me to be the ham in their ham sandwich.”

Stone was convicted in November of seven charges — including lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional committee proceeding — as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Among the things Stone misled Congress about were his communications with Trump campaign officials — communications that prosecutors said he hid out of his desire to protect Trump.

The President’s commutation spared Stone from having to serve prison time after Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced him in February to 40 months.

Stone claimed Monday that Jeannie Rhee, a senior lawyer on Mueller’s team, had communicated to his lawyers that if he would “come clean” and remember certain phone calls with then-candidate Trump, then “they might be able to recommend leniency to the judge. Perhaps I wouldn’t even serve any jail time.”

Stone said he “didn’t have to think about it very long. I said absolutely not.”

“There was no circumstance under which I would bear false witness against the President,” he continued. “I was just not willing to lie.”

In an exceedingly rare move following Stone’s commutation, Mueller penned an op-ed for The Washington Post defending his office’s prosecution of Stone and saying he is still a convicted felon and “rightly so.”

“Congress also investigated and sought information from Stone. A jury later determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress,” Mueller wrote in the op-ed, posted Saturday evening.

“The jury ultimately convicted Stone of obstruction of a congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness. Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison. But his conviction stands.”