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Another Valuable Post: “Trump’s Militia Pardon is Another Blow to Federal Law Enforcement”
News that President Donald Trump has pardoned two cattle ranchers [Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond] who committed arson on public lands should alarm anyone who is committed to our legal institutions, particularly federal law enforcement.
This pardon follows those Trump has granted to conservative author Dinesh D’Souza and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, among others. All of these pardons are part of a disturbing trend.
In exercising his pardon power, Trump has repeatedly ignored the process and substance of Department of Justice policy.
A pardon is considered a show of mercy and forgiveness. The U.S. Attorney’s Manual sets out [in U.S. Attorneys » Resources » U.S. Attorneys’ Manual » Title 9: Criminal at 9-140.000 – Pardon Attorney and following] the standards for granting a pardon. The factors for consideration include post-conviction conduct, character and reputation, seriousness and recentness of the offense, acceptance of responsibility, remorse and atonement, need for relief, and recommendations from the prosecutor and judge who handled the case. The pardon process is not intended to reverse a finding of guilt.
Trump seems to be ignoring these factors, and instead looking for cases where he can score points with his political base.
[T]president is granting pardons without consulting with the prosecutors and judges or even with the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Although the Constitution permits the president to go it alone, this process can lead to an ARBITRARY EXERCISE OF POWER, and a lack of uniformity around the country. What criteria is Trump using to decide whether to grant a pardon? Must the petitioner be well-connected to a celebrity or part of a cause célèbre by the right? How do the other 10,000 applicants waiting for clemency get the attention of the president if he bypasses the usual process at the Office of the Pardon Attorney?
Certainly, pardons have received criticism in the past for being politically motived. President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich were greeted with allegations of political motivations. But Trump’s use of the pardon to fire up his political base strikes one more blow against our legal institutions. The pardon of the Hammonds, in particular, sends a message that militia groups who are hostile to the federal government may aggressively and dangerously defy the law and Trump will protect them.
And combined with the other pardons, this is yet another blow to those who work to enforce the law.