A jury eventually found Stone guilty of lying to Congress and manipulating witnesses in connection with the Russia investigation. Before his commute, Stone had frantically tried to avoid a 40-month prison sentence that would begin next week.
Trump in a tweet on Saturday said Stone was “the target of an illegal Witch Hunt that should never have taken place.” Mueller, in his opinion piece, said Stone was a “central figure” in the investigation.
“We make all decisions in the Stone case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law,” Mueller wrote.
Saturday’s op-ed was uncharacteristic of the former special adviser, who rarely spoke publicly about the investigation and whose Washington office was leak-proof. Saturday was the first time Mueller had made public statements about Russia’s investigation since his testimony before Congress in July 2019.
Mueller revealed little new information on Saturday, but bluntly criticized critics who dismissed Russia’s participation in the 2016 election and questioned the integrity of his office’s investigation.
“Russia’s actions were a threat to the democracy of the United States,” wrote Mueller. “It was critical that they be investigated and understood.”
Trump and his allies for years attacked a special lawyer’s investigation as illegal and unnecessary, and the president repeatedly called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt,” including in front of journalists and in a tweet the previous Saturday.
The 2019 special counsel’s report found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy by the Trump campaign to help Russia interfere in the 2016 election and did not involve implicating the president in obstructing justice during the investigation.
Before concluding its investigation last year, the special lawyer’s office noted eight convictions and charged more than two dozen Russian people and entities with federal crimes.