The Oregon ranchers whose conviction for arson became the catalyst for 40 days of protests at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 were pardoned by Donald Trump today.
Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49 were convicted in 2012 of setting a fire on their own property that then spread to federal land. The Hammonds disavowed the protesters at the wildlife refuge where Robert LaVoy Finicum, one of the occupiers, was slain by federal authorities.
In a statement Tuesday announcing the pardon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized uncertainties in the case and the prison terms and fines the Hammonds had already paid.
“The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges,” the White House said. “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. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
Both men are currently in prison on five-year sentences, thanks in part to a 1996 antiterrorism law that imposed a mandatory minimum sentence on certain crimes on federal land. The length of their prison terms, in part, fueled outrage at their convictions.
Federal Judge Michael Robert Hogan originally gave the Hammonds reduced sentences in 2012, arguing that the mandatory minimums were unjust. But the Obama administration appealed, and federal Judge Ann Aiken in 2015 imposed the full five-year sentences.
“This was unjust,” Sanders said in her statement. Dwight Hammond has served about three years of his sentence and Steven Hammond has served about four of his. Trump’s pardon will set them free.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who represents the area that includes the Hammonds’ ranch, cheered Trump’s pardon as a win against federal overreach.
This episode was typical of the Obama administration's insensitivity to the concerns of citizens who believe the Bureau of Land Management constantly oversteps its authority and is hostile to their communities.
Five years for a fire that was accidentally set on private property and that accidentally spread to federal land? True, the Hammonds did not get a burn permit to set the fires, but five years in jail for a misdemeanor?
There's much more to this story, including threats against federal authorities made by the Hammonds throughout the 1990s. But three years in jail for this crime was plenty long and Trump was right to grant them executive clemency.
Susan Collins seems impressed with Kavanaugh, which was probably the determining factor in choosing him.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate who supports abortion rights and has said she could not back a nominee who opposed Roe v. Wade, told NBC News she was "glad" about remarks Kavanaugh made more than 10 years ago that the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion was "settled precedent."
Her comments offer a preview of the rationale she might use in eventually backing his confirmation — a would-be critical vote for the GOP to maintain its slim Senate majority.
"Back then, he said that he considered Roe to be settled precedent and that is my judgment as well, so I was glad to hear him say that at that time," Collins said, adding that she would raise the issue when she meets privately with him as part of the confirmation process.
In 2006, during his confirmation hearing for a seat on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh said he "would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully." Kavanaugh called it a "binding precedent of the court."
Collins also said Tuesday she found Kavanaugh's dissent "notable" in a 2011 decision by his Circuit Court in which the senator pointed out he did not argue for striking down Obamacare's ban on health insurers' discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions or for doing away with the individual mandate. Kavanaugh, in his dissent, said he believed the court did not have jurisdiction in the case challenging the Affordable Care Act.
With a 51-49 senate and every single Democrat going to be under threat of excommunication if they vote for him, Collins's vote becomes absolutely critical. No doubt red state Democratic senators like Claire McCaskill would prefer not to go against her party's base. But neither does she want to be blamed if Kavanaugh goes down, which is what the GOP in Missouri is poised to do. A Collins "yes" on Kavanaugh gives McCaskill an out and the chance to keep her base happy by voting "no."
The other Republican problem child, Lisa Murkowski, has also made nice noises about Kavanaugh. Apparently, Trump will have a united Republican senate to confirm his choice.
And the Democrats can do squat to stop it.
Huffpost advocates violence against the Supreme Court...
Sorry Paula, but that's bad news.
Jim Renacci should absolutely not restrain himself to two terms, not unilaterally. He is a strong and effective conservative voice, and when you restrain yourself artificially like that, you cause all sorts of problems when you enter a legislative body.
First off, the constituents and organizations that support you have to find another person after that time, no matter how good you represent them.
Secondly, in a legislative body, so much is run off of seniority. You will effectively cap your own effectiveness while doing nothing to take down the corruption of the system if you alone commit yourself to two terms while not convincing anyone else to join you.
By all means, term limits are a great idea, but choosing them alone only hobbles yourself. We need to have them applied for everyone in Congress, not just conservatives.
I have to admit, out of the final four or five contenders, I was least excited about Kavanaugh. But it's doubtful he'd be any worse the Kennedy, and likely that he'll be less unpredictable than Kennedy. Those are plusses.
Also, you have to figure Trump selected based on who he could get through a closely divided Senate.