Now, according to sources, the West Wing is bracing for Trump to pardon Stone or commute his three-year prison sentence. “Commuting the sentence, if there is any action taken, is the only remotely safe thing. A full pardon is corruption,” a former West Wing official told me.

Republicans close to the White House say officials are lobbying Trump not to go ahead with a Stone rescue. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Jared Kushner have argued to Trump that a pardon or commutation would create an unnecessary scandal during an election year. “They all think it’ll be a problem and that there will be hearings,” a Republican briefed on the internal conversations told me. Another source briefed on the matter said that Trump is being told, “We don’t need the hassle. Do it after the election.” Sources also said West Wing officials have told Trump that stepping in could lead Attorney General William Barr to resign—an outcome one Republican close to the White House described as “catastrophic.”

Trump’s desire to intervene on Stone’s behalf is being stoked by Stone’s longtime friend, Fox News host Tucker Carlson.