Roger Stone advises Trump not to agree to debate schedule; says campaign is ‘outgunned, outmanned’

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Longtime GOP operative and former presidential confidante Roger Stone has expressed concern that President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is “outgunned” and “outmanned” by likely rival Joe Biden, even as he advises the president to reject the current debate schedule.

“Everything depends on this November,” Stone said during an online forum hosted by a political action committee, the Washington Times reported.

“We are outgunned and outmanned, but I have great confidence in the president’s skills as a communicator and as a campaigner,” Stone continued.

Stone was convicted last year on several felonies that stemmed from conduct during the 2016 campaign when he was advising then-GOP nominee Trump. The president recently commuted his 40-month sentence.

During the forum, Stone also suggested that the president use his executive authority to his advantage during any upcoming debates with Biden.

“I hope that he does not agree to the debate schedule as put forward by the presidential commission on debates, which is not appointed by the president, is not a commission and is not about debates,” Stone said.

“I think the president can command how and when and under what format he debates, and he should use that power to control the dialogue on debates and to control what debates are ultimately heard by the American people,” he added.

Officially known as the Commission on Presidential Debates, the organization was established in 1987 by the chairpersons of the Republican and Democratic Parties to organize debates that took place the following year. The commission has continued the practice since.

But to Stone’s point about potential bias by the commission, the president has battled against so-called “establishment” forces in both parties since his 2016 election victory.

Ahead of a CNN-sponsored debate with then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Donna Brazile — head of Democratic National Committee and a network contributor at the time — sent questions to the Clinton campaign that were asked at the town hall-style event.

More recently, a group of Republican operatives disenfranchised from the current administration formed a political action committee called the Lincoln Project, whose objective is to see Trump defeated in November.

As for Stone, the president’s commutation was widely panned by Democrats.

Last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York held a mark-up session on a pair of bills aimed at curbing a president’s pardon power.

“The first, H.R. 1627, the Abuse of the Pardon Power Prevention Act, will allow us a measure of transparency into the President’s power to pardon federal crimes and commute federal sentences,” Nadler said. “If the president uses the powers of his office to shield himself and his family from federal investigations, then the investigators at the Department of Justice should provide us with the materials related to the underlying offense.”

“The second bill we will consider, H.R. 2678, the No President is Above the Law Act, is also straightforward,” Nadler continued. “While the president is in office, we should pause the clock on the statute of limitations for any crimes he may have committed. Re-election should not be a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

The president’s pardon authority is outlined in the Constitution under Article II.

Last week during a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, Attorney General William Barr was grilled by Democrats over the Justice Department’s intervention in Stone’s case.

Initially, prosecutors recommended a sentence of between seven and nine years, but the Justice Department reduced the recommendation to 40 months after the department determined the initial recommendation was excessive.

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Jon Dougherty

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