Trump pardons ranchers at the heart of 2016 armed occupation

Trump pardons ranchers at the heart of 2016 armed occupation

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Building that has been occupied by anti-government members. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge photo.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump granted a full pardon Tuesday to Dwight and Steven Hammond, two Oregon ranchers whose prison sentences for setting fire to federal land sparked an occupation of a federal wildlife refuge building in 2016.

“The Hammonds are 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,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”

The two ranchers were convicted on two counts of arson for setting fire to federal land adjacent to their property in 2001 and 2006.

In 2012, Dwight Hammond, now 76, was sentenced to three months in prison. His son, Steven Hammond, now 49, received a 366-day sentence.

The Justice Department, however, successfully appealed the sentence on the grounds that it didn’t meet mandatory minimum sentencing requirements. The two then were sentenced to five years, with credit for time served.

The new sentences prompted protests headed by sovereign citizen activists Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, which ultimately lead to a 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge lead by the latter two beginning on Jan. 2, 2016.

In her statement Tuesday, Sanders described the federal government’s intervention as “an overzealous appeal” from the Obama administration.

“This was unjust,” Sanders said.

The pardon will likely be well-received from some portions of Trump’s base, some of whom believe that the Bureau of Land Management, which oversaw the federal land, is essentially unjust.

Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone has been one vocal voice supporting the Bundys, writing on the conspiracy theory site Infowars that Trump should offer pardons in the case.

Tuesday’s announcement marks Trump’s seventh pardon or commutation since assuming office.

Three have gone to conservative luminaries, including commentator Dinesh D’Souza, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., and Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Trump also has intervened in the sentences for Navy sailor Kristian Mark Saucier, deceased boxing legend Jack Johnson, and Alice Johnson, a first-time, non-violent drug offender for whom reality star Kim Kardashian advocated.

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