On his Wednesday night program, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said this about longtime political consultant and famous dirty trickster Roger Stone: “He’s a dog lover.”

Why would one of the top personalities in cable news be discussing Stone’s canine bona fides?

Because he was continuing a long-standing effort to dismiss the criminal case against the 67-year-old Stone, who was convicted in federal court last November on seven felony counts — including obstruction of a congressional inquiry and false statements. There was also a witness-tampering count, which is where the dog enters the picture: Stone told a web of lies pertaining to an alleged “intermediary” that he’d used to communicate with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential campaign. In a letter to the House intelligence committee, Stone said that intermediary was radio host and comedian Randy Credico — though the timeline of their communications ruled out any such connection. To make things worse, Stone tried to keep Credico from cooperating with Congress’s investigation into Russian election interference, an effort that featured a threat by Stone to snatch Credico’s dog.

A Feb. 10 Justice Department sentencing memo argued that Stone’s meddling compromised official proceedings: “As urged by Stone, Credico declined the House Intelligence Committee’s request for a voluntary interview and invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in response to a subpoena, just as Stone had instructed him to do,” notes the memo, which recommended a prison term of seven to nine years for Stone. “As a result, the Committee never heard testimony from Credico and never saw documents in Credico’s possession that would have proved that Stone lied to the Committee.”

On Tuesday, all four federal prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case after Justice Department brass decided to lessen the recommended sentence in the case. That decision, in turn, came after President Trump tweeted:

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the reversal was decided before the president’s tweet. For his part, Credico told the court that he didn’t fear any reprisals — canine or otherwise — from Stone. “I chalked up his bellicose tirades to ‘Stone being Stone.’ All bark and no bite,” he wrote.

On his highly rated Fox News show, Carlson used the news to argue yet again for a presidential pardon of Stone. “Now, Stone and his wife, who is 71 years old and deaf, have lost their home because of this," said Carlson on Wednesday night. “They have no insurance. They’re utterly broke. The whole thing is shocking and it’s disgusting. It’s a farce that discredits the entire American justice system.”

The prosecution of Stone, argued Carlson, is wrong because it stemmed from the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which was tasked with determining whether the Trump campaign had collaborated with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. The Mueller report didn’t establish any conspiracy along these lines. “Stone’s prosecution was designed in part to confirm the fantasies that Democrats have constructed to explain the outcome of the 2016 election,” riffed Carlson. “His conviction helps their case. In other words, if the Russia collusion story was a hoax, and of course it most certainly was a hoax, then why is Roger Stone going to prison for his role in it? If Roger Stone serves even a single day behind bars, the Russia lie will be validated as true."

Or, as prosecutors contend, it will merely validate the fact that Roger Stone lied on repeated occasions.

In any case, Carlson wants action from Trump on this matter: “The president must pardon Roger Stone or commute his sentence before he goes to jail.” A brilliant play there by Carlson: If Trump does end up pardoning Stone, the Fox Newsman will get at least some credit for the action, inflating his alleged role as member of Trump’s informal group of advisers. Any such pardon would align three men who’ve built flimsy relationships with the truth: Stone, with his conviction on false statements; Trump, with his 16,000-plus false or misleading statements; and Carlson himself, who is confused as to whether he lies.

Watching Carlson advocate for Stone, it’s difficult to avoid the sense that he’s just trying to get a friend out of a bind. Or, as the Daily Beast puts it, a “buddy.” In May 2018, Stone published a book titled, “Stone’s Rules: How to Win at Politics, Business, and Style.” Its introduction comes from the desk of Tucker Carlson, who writes that a TV executive once “forbade” him to interview Stone on the air because it would cause “trouble” for the network. “Like many in the upper reaches of media, business and government, this executive stood in fear and trembling before the legend of Roger Stone,” wrote Carlson. “And for good reason: Roger Stone is a troublemaker — indeed, not just a troublemaker, but perhaps the premier troublemaker of our time, the Michael Jordan of electoral mischief. This is either terrifying or delightful, depending on your uptightness level. I love it. Television executives don’t. That’s the difference.”

From the early years of the Daily Caller — the conservative website co-founded by Carlson — Stone parlayed his well-known stylistic sense into a gig as men’s fashion editor. Here’s a 2012 piece: “The ascot: proceed with caution.” In his introduction to Stone’s book, Carlson jokes, “Roger and I disagree on pleated trousers, but other than that, he’s on the level.”

“I do think that they get together socially,” says Daniel DiMauro, a co-director of the excellent Netflix documentary “Get Me Roger Stone,” which includes snippets from an interview with Carlson. “Our impression was that they were genuinely friendly.” Mike Riggs, who worked at the Daily Caller from 2010 to 2011, told the Erik Wemple Blog, “When Tucker talked about Roger, he talked about him like a friend. It seemed like he knew what was going on in Roger’s personal life even after he’d moved to Miami.”

It’s that personal tie that came across the TV screen when Carlson in January 2019 ripped the feds for raiding Stone’s house in a predawn show of force. He cited Stone’s worries that the agents might shoot his wife, who is deaf, by accident. “Tragedies like that regularly occur during law enforcement raids. And that’s why federal agents don’t raid the homes of people like Roger Stone. There’s no need to," said Carlson. CNN provided footage of the raid and was surely tipped off by someone in the special counsel’s office, argued Carlson, based on no evidence. “Of course, CNN talked to Mueller’s people before the raid. There was never any doubt about that.” he said. “All the barking aside, Mueller wanted the raid on Roger Stone’s home caught on tape and publicly aired as a warning to other disobedient witnesses about what can happen to you if you step out of line."

The Erik Wemple Blog has asked Carlson and Fox News whether the host has ever disclosed his relationship with Stone on-air. Journalism ethics frown on pardon campaigns for friends, even with proper disclosures. Journalism ethics, of course, hold no sway whatsoever on Fox News’s prime-time lineup, in which a fellow such as Sean Hannity shares a lawyer with the president, appears at a rally with him and so on.

Asked about his relationship with Stone, Carlson provided the following statement: “I’ve known Roger Stone since 1996, when I covered the Dole campaign. I like Roger personally, but that’s unrelated to my outrage over his sentence. Nine years in prison for a nonviolent crime committed during a political investigation is obviously disproportionate. It’s wrong, immoral, and it tells you a lot that the Washington Post’s editorial page isn’t saying so.”

Forget about the ethics. Consider, instead, how advocating for Stone contradicts everything that Carlson claims to stand for. In his 2018 book, “Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution,” the Fox News host crafts the populist argument that the country’s “ruling class” has abandoned working people. “Nothing that is happening in America today is unprecedented, or even unusual. A relatively small number of people make the overwhelming majority of significant cultural and economic decisions,” he writes in the book. “Wars are fought, populations shift, the rules of commerce change, all without reference to what the bulk of the population thinks or wants.”

No one would ever mistake either Carlson or Stone for representing the “bulk of the population.” Here we have a wealthy, careerist Washington pundit/TV host using his perch to secure a pardon for a super-consultant who turned his political contacts into a lobbying firm, Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. As Franklin Foer wrote in the Atlantic, the firm married lobbying and political consulting to lucrative effect. “Other lobbyists sought out authoritarian clients, but none did so with the focused intensity of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly,” wrote Foer. “The firm would arrange for image-buffing interviews on American news programs; it would enlist allies in Congress to unleash money. Back home, it would help regimes acquire the whiff of democratic legitimacy that would bolster their standing in Washington.”

In a 2007 profile of Stone, Matt Labash of the now-defunct Weekly Standard wrote, “I am being chauffeured around Miami in one of Stone’s five Jaguars.” Carlson later hosted a very populist book party for Labash, with Stone in attendance. Not ruling class at all.

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