News & Politics

Wayback Machine: Remember Obama's Iran Deal Pardons?

Former President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Ill., on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (Stephen Haas//The News-Gazette via AP)

There is much grumbling about President Trump’s pardons of well-known Americans such as former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, former NYPD Chief Bernard Kerik and former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.

Some have claimed that it’s the end of the rule of law and justice that the president would grant clemency to this well-known rogues gallery along with small-time drug dealers.

Blue checkmarks are in high dudgeon:

Though it wasn’t as bad as Bill Clinton pardoning arms dealer Mark Rich and Puerto Rican terrorists, there was plenty of ick factor implicit in some of Trump’s choices for pardons and commutations.

The guy who tried to sell to the highest bidder Barack Obama’s Senate seat? Really?

Among those who interceded for others to ask for pardons and clemency were the well-connected multi-millionaires, including  Alice Johnson and Alveda King.

But let’s go back to the Wayback Machine, folks, and gain some perspective.

It wasn’t too long ago, one year before he left office, that Barack Obama gave full pardons to men in prison at the behest –  not of Alice Johnson or Alveda King– of the Iranian government as part of the Iran nuclear deal.

On January 16, in his last year of office, President Obama put the finishing touches on his dreadful Iran deal by giving full pardons to people with ties to the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

Screenshot/Department of Justice

Reuters described Bahram Mechanic as an Iranian military purchaser with dual citizenship. He lived in Houston, Texas. Fellow Houstonian, Tooraj Faridi, was accused of selling sophisticated electronics to the Iranians in defiance of U.S. sanctions. Nima Golestaneh, an Iranian national, was prosecuted as a hacker who commandeered servers and stole information. Four other men were also freed as part of an Iranian “prisoner exchange.”

Reuters reported at the time:

The reversal of fortune for Mechanic and six other Iranian men who received clemency in a deal accompanying the lifting of international sanctions on Iran underscores how quickly assumptions about U.S. relations with Tehran have shifted.

The historic swap was marked by uncertainty, concern on both sides over public perceptions and lingering mistrust between Washington and Tehran, according to administration officials and lawyers for six of the Iranians.

In return, Iran gave back five Americans who had been held hostage by Iran.

USA Today reported at the time:

They will be released from U.S. custody through a side deal to the Iran nuclear agreement that led Iran to release five Americans: Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, pastor Saeed Abedini, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, and student Matthew Trevithick.

Trump ended the “side deals” and the entire Iranian plan, fulfilling a campaign promise.

Trump’s hostage negotiator, Robert O’Brien, was said to have released 20 American hostages without giving up money or prisoners. He’s now Trump’s national security advisor.

But, hey, at least Obama gave baseball legend Willie McCovey a pardon. America cheered for that one.