President Donald Trump on Friday commuted the sentence of former campaign adviser Roger Stone, allowing him to avoid prison time for lying to Congress.

Stone had been scheduled to begin his 40-month prison sentence on Tuesday, though his lawyers were attempting to delay his report date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from the office of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Stone was “a victim of the Russia hoax,” a term Trump uses to describe Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.

“Mr. Stone was charged by the same prosecutors from the Mueller investigation tasked with finding evidence of collusion with Russia,” the statement continued. “Because no such evidence exists, however, they could not charge him for any collusion-related crime. Instead, they charged him for his conduct during their investigation. The simple fact is that if the special counsel had not been pursuing an absolutely baseless investigation, Mr. Stone would not be facing time in prison.”

Stone, a Republican strategist, was convicted in November of charges that included lying to Congress, witness tampering and interfering in the House’s Russia investigation, which searched for any links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Stone’s sentence was significantly lighter than the seven to nine years prosecutors originally recommended in February. They were ultimately overruled by U.S. Attorney General William Barr after Trump slammed the recommendation as excessive. After Barr stepped in, four of the prosecutors in the case quit, two of whom resigned entirely from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.

Stone has been out on bail as part of the appeals process.

“He has appealed his conviction and is seeking a new trial. He maintains his innocence and has stated that he expects to be fully exonerated by the justice system. Mr. Stone, like every American, deserves a fair trial and every opportunity to vindicate himself before the courts,” McEnany’s statement said.

“The president does not wish to interfere with his efforts to do so. At this time, however, and particularly in light of the egregious facts and circumstances surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial, the president has determined to commute his sentence. Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!

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