By Jim DeFede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Roger Stone has found God.

At least, that’s what he said during a wide-ranging interview with CBSMiami in which he addressed President Trump’s last-minute decision to commute his 40-month prison term for lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

“I was very confident that if you will turn your life over to Christ, that you will be protected by the Lord, that he will never abandon you, that he will always protect you,” Stone said. “So I was confident that this would be resolved in that way. I wasn’t worried, I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t nervous. I really believed that it would all work out. And I still do.”

Stone, a self-proclaimed political dirty trickster who is famous for the Richard Nixon tattoo on his back and the tabloid headlines about his appetite for swingers clubs, credits Rev. Franklin Graham for saving him in January.

“He gave me some extraordinarily good advice,” Stone said. “I was reborn. I reaffirmed my relationship with Jesus Christ. I prayed fervently for this moment.”

Stone said he realizes there are those who will doubt his sincerity.

“I completely understand,” he said. “I’ve been a hardball political operative for a long time. And I’m sure there are folks out there saying that’s a ploy, that’s a head fake, that’s a ploy for public sympathy. And so, I don’t really care. There’s only one person or one entity, I guess I should say, that I care about. There’s only one person who knows what’s in my heart. There’s only one person that can no one entity that can know whether I’m sincere and that is God.”

Jesus may save Stone’s soul, but it was Trump who kept him out of prison.

Trump personally called Stone Friday evening with the news.

“It was a short call,” Stone said. “He was very gracious. He said, `I’m signing an act clemency, which is a full commutation of your sentence. I’m doing this for two reasons. One, because I do not think you got a fair trial. And I think you should ask for a new trial. You should fight for a new trial. You should appeal.’ And I said I am appealing.”

“He [also] said, `I’m also doing it as an act of mercy because I think at your age and in your health, going to prison where there is COVID-19 is very, very dangerous. You might not live long enough to see your appeal through.’ And then he said, `Well, good luck. Now you are a free man.’ That was the end of it. It was an enormous relief. As you might imagine.”

WATCH Jim DeFede Share His Takeaways From His Interview With Roger Stone

 

It is ironic that the President, who has been downplaying the coronavirus to the public, would cite it as a concern for his longtime friend.

Stone said he did believe he would have contracted COVID if he was sent to prison.

“I think I would have died in pretty short order. I’m 67 years old and I have asthma, a lifelong medical history of it, and sending me to a to a COVID infested prison where now even the Bureau of Prisons own website shows that there are 60 cases was tantamount to a death sentence,” he said.

There was swift and loud reaction to the President’s commutation of Stone’s sentence. Robert Mueller, the special counsel who prosecuted Stone, wrote in the Washington Post: “He remains a convicted felon and rightly so.”

“Well I think he remains a traitor and rightly so,” Stone replied.

Nevertheless, Mueller is correct. Stone remains a convicted felon. And by only commuting the sentence, the President let that verdict stand. Would Stone have preferred a pardon? Stone says no.

“When you accept a pardon, your accepting guilt,” he said. “When you take a commutation, your appeal can go forward. So, I’m now fighting for exoneration. The only way I can clear my name is to is to get a new trial and win a new trial.”

In an interview just prior to the commutation, Stone told journalist Howard Fineman that Trump is well aware of his loyalty. “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him,” Stone told Fineman. “I would have eased my situation considerably, but I didn’t. They wanted me to play Judas. I refused.”

Stone denies that was a tacit admission he had damaging information against the President.

“And I’ve said on the record in a thousand places since the gag order was lifted, that they [prosecutors] pressured me to bear false witness against him,” Stone told CBSMiami.

Now that he is a free man – to use President Trump’s words, does Stone envision working for the campaign?

“I don’t foresee having any formal role in the campaign,” he said. “I intend to write and speak in favor of the President’s reelection; something I feel very strongly about. But, you know, Jim, this has destroyed me financially. I’ve lost everything, my home, my savings, most of my insurance, my ability to make a living for almost two years. I’ve got to rebuild my life. I’m virtually indigent.”

Jim DeFede

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