Donald Trump issued pardons on Tuesday for two men convicted of arson whose cause had been championed by right-wing militias and sparked the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.
Trump signed full pardons for father and son Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond who were convicted of the 2001 arson which consumed 139 acres of federal land, to cover up evidence of their illegal deer hunting and a second arson in 2006.
The pair were prosecuted for both fires in a 2012 and found guilty in a jury trial.
After the trial judge in their case ignored the five-year mandatory minimum imposed by Congress the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ordered them to be re-sentenced in 2015.
When the Hammonds were given five years, with credit for time served at their re-sentencing, this set off an armed militia's a 41 day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that evidence against the Hammonds was “conflicting” calling the Hammonds...
"devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West,”
Huckabee Sanders conspicuously left out the part about the Hammonds had previously been accused of making death threats against federal officials and were arrested in 1994 after trying to stop federal workers from fencing off a canal at Malheur in which Dwight Hammond threatened to kill the manager of the refuge that they had used for their cows.
The pair was also reported for making death threats against refuge managers in 1986, 1988, 1991 where they grazed their cattle... but who's counting.
Former federal prosecutor Dwight Holton, the U.S. attorney who wrote the indictment against both men, told KGW of Portland that...
"the Hammonds were serial arsonists who stole from US taxpayers for years."
Jennifer Rokala, an executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said Trump's pardons sent a...
“dangerous message to America’s park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers,"
Some are warning that this provocative pardon will only embolden the dangerous ultra right militias by giving credence to their cause.
These pardons fit into a trend for Trump who has granted pardons to felons such as former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former Bush administration official Scooter Libby, right-wing media provocateur Dinesh D’Souza, and Navy sailor Kristan Saucier who are considered darlings of the right wing conservative media and heroes of his supporters.