Donald Trump waited until Friday night to commute Roger Stone's sentence for a reason: it's the president's preferred time to try to bury scandalous announcements. If the White House thought the news would be politically beneficial, officials would've unveiled it at a time when it'd generate more attention.
Nevertheless, Trump has apparently convinced himself that his brazenly corrupt intervention in the case of a convicted felon who lied on his behalf has been well received. At a White House event yesterday, for example, a reporter asked the president, "You’re asking Americans to have full faith in law enforcement. How do you respond to critics who say you undermined your own federal law enforcement agency, the [Justice Department], when you commuted the sentence of Roger Stone?"
Trump's rambled for a while before declaring, "I’m getting rave reviews for what I did for Roger Stone."
The Republican didn't say who, exactly, has "raved" about his corruption, and the search for voices who thought this was wise is quite difficult.
Ahead of Trump's decision, his allies made clear they thought it was a bad idea.
President Donald Trump’s allies expect he could pardon or commute the sentence of Roger Stone within the next few days if his longtime friend is forced to report to prison on Tuesday as scheduled. But some of them are concerned such a move could further damage the president politically when he’s already facing headwinds less than four months before the November election.
Within a day of the commutation, the president expected conservative media to rally behind him. It didn't.
By Saturday, Trump had grown frustrated that he was not getting more credit from conservative media and others for the Stone announcement....
As the dust settled, some of the top players in the White House were distancing themselves from the move.
Some White House officials were against offering clemency to Roger Stone and were outraged by President Donald Trump's decision to do so Friday night, people familiar with the matter told NBC News. Among those opposed to Trump's decision to spare his longtime adviser from having to report to prison next week was White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to a person familiar with the situation.... Attorney General William Barr discussed Stone's sentence with Trump and recommended clemency not be offered.
Among current Republican officials, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) described the president's overt misconduct as "unprecedented, historic corruption," while among former Republican officials, former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) wrote, "Pardoning someone who lies on behalf of one holding power is the mark of a third world banana republic. The president is taking us to new lows with his pardon of [Roger Stone]."
A Washington Post editorial, meanwhile, called Stone's commutation "one of the most nauseating instances of corrupt government favoritism the United States has ever seen." The editorial board added, "If the country needed any more evidence, Friday confirmed that the greatest threat to the Republic is the president himself."
Perhaps Trump made up some complimentary reviews that made him feel better; maybe the president's team placated him to avoid a tantrum; or perhaps Trump isn't altogether sure what "rave" means.