New Delhi: In a major development nearly four months before the US Presidential election, President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, Junior. The move spared Stone from prison after he was convicted of lying under oath to lawmakers investigating the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Also Read - US judge issues gag order in case of Trump advisor Roger Stone

Notably, Stone was scheduled to report on Tuesday for his prison term of three years and four months. After the commutation, however, he is now a free man. The commutation, however, does not erase his felony convictions in the same way as a presidential pardon would have. Also Read - President Donald Trump's Close Associate Roger Stone Arrested by FBI in Russia Probe

In a statement, the White House said, “President Donald J. Trump today signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the unjust sentence of Roger Stone, Jr. Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia Hoax that Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency”. Also Read - Trump friend Roger Stone denies they discussed a pardon

“There was never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or Trump Administration, with Russia. Such collusion was never anything other than a fantasy of partisans unable to accept the result of the 2016 election”, the statement noted further.

The 67-year-old Stone was among several associates of Trump who were charged with crimes in a special investigation by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He was himself open about his desire for a pardon or commutation, going to the extent of appealing to Trump and seeking to postpone his surrender date by months after getting a brief extension from the judge.

Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence, however, brought him severe flak from the Democrats, who accused him of undermining the rule of law, remarking that there were two sets of justice: one for his criminal friends and one for everyone else.