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Sen. Mitt Romney. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Saturday tweeted a scathing response to President Trump's Friday night commutation of former associate Roger Stone's prison sentence, calling the move "[u]nprecedented, historic corruption."

Why it matters: Romney has emerged as the party's most prominent Trump critic. He sent shockwaves through Washington after announcing he would vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial — becoming the only Senate Republican to break ranks and vote for the president's removal from office. Now he is the first major GOP lawmaker to condemn Trump's Friday night call regarding Stone.

What they're saying: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) wrote on Saturday afternoon: "The president clearly has the legal and constitutional authority to grant clemency for federal crimes. However, this authority should be used judiciously and very rarely by any president. While I understand the frustration with the badly flawed Russia-collusion investigation, in my view, commuting Roger Stone's sentence is a mistake."

  • "He was duly convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a congressional investigation conducted by a Republican-led committee. Earlier this week Attorney General Bill Barr stated he thought Mr. Stone's prosecution was 'righteous' and 'appropriate' and the sentence he received was 'fair.' Any objections to Mr. Stone's conviction and trial should be resolved through the appeals process."

Meanwhile, other Republicans have defended the president's move.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted before Stone's commutation was official: "In my view it would be justified if President @realDonaldTrump decided to commute Roger Stone's prison sentence.Mr. Stone is in his 70s and this was a non-violent, first-time offense.
  • Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wrote on Twitter that he supports the commutation, adding "Roger Stone’s prosecution by overzealous Special Counsel prosecutors was an outgrowth of the Obama-Biden misconduct."

The big picture: Stone was convicted as part of the Robert Mueller investigation for obstructing justice, tampering with witnesses and making false statements to Congress. The president's commutation cleared Stone's entire 40-month prison sentence.

Go deeper

Always Trumpers: The president’s unbreakable wall

Data: Axios research and FiveThirtyEight's Trump Score. See our methodology here. Note(*): Senator Mitt Romney did not join Congress until January 2019. However, statements he made as a prominent GOP figure prior to his time in office were taken into consideration. Chart: Naema Ahmed, Sara Wise, Juliet Bartz, Orion Rummler/Axios

More than 85% of elected Republicans who have been in Congress throughout President Trump’s term have largely stood by him through seven crises that would have crushed most politicians, according to a comprehensive new study by "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: The data shows how Trump’s grip on the Republican Party has tightened — especially in the last two years — as his dissenters have largely piped down, been tossed out, or currently face the threat of losing re-election.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.

Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Assassination in Iran sets stage for tense final 50 days of Trump

The funeral ceremony in Tehran. Photo: Iranian Defense Ministry via Getty

Iranian leaders are weighing their response to the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, known as the father of Iran’s military nuclear program, who was given a state funeral Monday in Tehran.

The big picture: Iran has accused Israel of carrying out Friday’s attack, but senior leaders have suggested that they’ll choose patience over an immediate escalation that could play into the hands of the Israelis and the outgoing Trump administration.