President Trump is considering a pardon for two Oregon ranchers whose federal arson case was the springboard for the illegal 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, several news outlets have reported.
The refuge occupation, which lasted 41-days and terrorized the community of Burns, Oregon, was engineered by Ammon and Ryan Bundy and their militia followers who, following the 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, had traveled the West to make a “hard stand” against the federal government.
They found their case with the Dwight Hammon and his son, Steven, even though the family rejected the Bundy’s offer for help and reported to federal prison to serve a five-year prison term.
But, amid a flurry of surprising pardons from President Trump, The Washington Post reported last week that the White House is “now weighing whether to grant a presidential pardon” to the Hammonds, who have received “support from ranching and farming groups, as well as some militia adherents [pushing] for clemency to send a signal that federal officials won’t engage in overreach out West.”
Dwight Hammond’s wife, Susie, told the The Oregonian last Wednesday that she hadn’t heard from the White House, only journalists, about a possible presidential pardon for her 76-year-old husband and 49-year-old son.
“I have a sense that things are moving forward and I have faith in our president,” Susie Hammond told the Portland newspaper. “If anyone is going to help them, he'd be the one.”
Late last month, a farm publication, Tri-State Livestock News, reported that a farm-lobbying group, Protect the Harvest, was circulating an online petition supporting the Hammonds. That petition, which had collected 4,000 signatures, was forwarded to the White House, urging the president to commute the Hammonds’ sentences. A commutation would result in their immediate release from prison but leave their felony convictions in place.
If a pardon or commutation comes, it wouldn’t be the first time Trump has used his presidential powers to attract the attention of the far-right and his political base.
In late May, Trump used his presidential pen to pardon conservative pundit and author Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violation federal campaign finance laws.
Foreign-born himself, D’Souza defended “birthers,” including Trump, who spread the conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama wasn’t really born in the United States and, therefore, illegally was elected.
That same “birther” theme was evident in Trump’s first presidential pardon granted last August to former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was up to his neck in the bogus conspiracy movement.
It was “Sheriff Joe’s” unconstitutional racial profiling tactics that got him convicted of a federal crime — criminal contempt-of-court for ignoring a federal judge's order in a long-simmering racial-profiling case.
That didn’t stop Arpaio from being an early Trump supporter, providing a vocal endorsement at the 2016 Republican convention and backing Trump’s hardline, anti-immigrant views and his controversial plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico.