President Donald Trump has commuted the sentence of his friend Roger J. Stone Jr. on seven felony crimes on Friday, using the power of his office to spare a former campaign adviser days before Mr. Stone was to report to a federal prison to serve a 40-month term.
In a lengthy written statement punctuated by the sort of inflammatory language and angry grievances characteristic of the president’s Twitter feed, the White House denounced the “overzealous prosecutors” who convicted Roger J. Stone Jr. on “process-based charges” stemming from the “witch hunts” and “Russia hoax” investigation.
The statement did not assert that Roger J. Stone was innocent of the false statements and obstruction counts, only that he should not have been pursued because prosecutors ultimately filed no charges of an underlying conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” it said. “He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”
The commutation, announced late on a Friday, when potentially damaging news is often released, was the latest action by the Trump administration upending the justice system to help the president’s convicted friends.
The Justice Department moved in May to dismiss its own criminal case against Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. And last month, Mr. Trump fired Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney whose office prosecuted Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, and has been investigating Rudolph W. Giuliani, another of his lawyers.
Democrats quickly condemned the president’s decision, characterizing it as an abuse of the rule of law. “With this commutation, Trump makes clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and a leader of the drive to impeach Mr. Trump last year for pressuring Ukraine to incriminate his domestic rivals.
Two House committee chairmen quickly announced that they would investigate the circumstances of the commutation, suggesting that it was a reward for Mr. Stone’s silence protecting the president. “No other president has exercised the clemency power for such a patently personal and self-serving purpose,” said a statement issued by Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn B. Maloney, both New York Democrats.
Mr. Stone, 67, a longtime Republican operative, was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and possible ties to Russia. Prosecutors convinced jurors that he lied under oath, withheld a trove of documents, and threatened an associate with harm if he cooperated with congressional investigators. Mr. Stone maintained his innocence and claimed prosecutors wanted him to offer information about Mr. Trump that he said did not exist.
As his time to report to prison neared, Mr. Stone openly lobbied for clemency, maintaining that he could die in prison and emphasizing that he had stayed loyal to the president rather than help investigators.
“He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him,” Mr. Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman on Friday shortly before the announcement. “It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”
In an interview with Fox News this week, he characterized himself as collateral damage in the quest to target Mr. Trump. “He is aware that the people trying to destroy Michael Flynn, now trying to destroy me, are the people trying to destroy him,” Mr. Stone said.
In an appearance on Fox last month, Mr. Stone even suggested that he wanted to help Mr. Trump win in November, saying his biggest fear of going to the prison other than his health was “that I may not be free to do everything within my power to re-elect this president.”
While it was not clear when the two last spoke before the decision, Mr. Trump called Mr. Stone on Friday to deliver the news of his clemency personally, according to an official briefed on the conversation.
The president has used his power to issue pardons or commutations to a variety of political allies, supporters, or people with connections to his own circle, like the former New York police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, the financier Michael R. Milken and former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois.
But Mr. Stone is the first figure directly connected to the president’s campaign to benefit from his clemency power. While Mr. Trump has publicly dangled pardons for associates targeted by investigators, that was a line he had been wary of crossing until now amid warnings from advisers concerned about the possible political damage.
The debate over clemency for Mr. Stone has raged within the White House for months. Among those who advocated on behalf of it from outside the building were Tucker Carlson, the influential Fox News anchor, and Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Within the White House, Mr. Stone had few allies. Many Trump aides who knew him from the campaign did not like him, were envious of his long relationship with Mr. Trump or thought clemency would be bad politics.