Hi, did you watch the last presidential debate? If so, do you remember when Biden said Trump might have granted clemency to 20 something individuals but the Obama administration granted clemency to over a thousand people? Well I heard that and I wondered, who are the exceptionally lucky few that have received this special gift from President Trump? Below are truncated bios of 14 such individuals.
Infamous racist and anti-immigrant Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona from 1992-2016. Here are some highlights from Wikipedia (you can click on his name for full details):
Under his watch, the Mariscopa County Sheriff’s Office cleared the majority of their cases by exception, while failing to investigate over 400 sex crimes between 2004-2007, including at least 32 reports of child molestation.
Arpaio used his office to harass his political opponents. His bogus investigations resulted in at least 11 lawsuits against him and MSCO, settlements for which cost Arizona taxpayers $44.4 million. This in addition to an investigation from The Republic that found Arpaio’s office had misspent upwards of $111 million since 2004.
Arpaio & MSCO were repeatedly sued for their racial profiling, including by the USDOJ. Finally in July 2017, Arpaio was found guilty of contempt of court for the failure to comply with court orders to end this racist practice. Less than one month later, President Trump pardoned Arpaio, praising him on Twitter.
Arpaio was Trump’s first official pardon. Notably Arpaio is an ardent Trump supporter and a prominent figure in the birther conspiracy regarding former President Obama.
Behenna, an ex-lieutenant in the US Army, murdered Ali Mansur Mohamed, an Iraqi man detained by the military intelligence on suspicion of his connection to an attack on Behenna’s platoon. The investigation found insufficient evidence linking Ali Mansur to the attack, and Behenna was responsible for escorting him back to town. Instead Behenna executed him.
President Trump granted Behenna a full pardon, in a move that the ACLU called “a presidential endorsement of a murder that violated the military’s own code of justice.”
Black is the wealthy son of a business mogul father. Black has a career in rightwing media and publishing, musing on history and politics. In 2007, Black was convicted on 3 counts of fraud and 1 count of obstruction of justice, although appeals saw 2 of his fraud convictions vacated. Black is a longterm friend and an staunch supporter of President Trump, going so far as writing a flattering biography titled “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.”
In 2019, President Trump pardoned his old friend.
You may remember Blagojevich as the former Governor of Illinois who tried to sell the Senate seat left by President Barrack Obama’s election. Blagojevich did not attend his own trial, and instead embarked on a media blitz to plead his innocence. In spring 2010, an impeached Blogojevich starred on season 9 of The Celebrity Apprentice.
In February 2020, President Trump commuted Blagojevich’s sentence without a pardon of his criminal convictions. Notably, Blagojevich continues to deny wrongdoing, claiming he was the victim of a scheme against him. Besides a “Trump-ocrat”, Blagojevich also repeatedly called himself a political prisoner.
D’Souza is a far right conspiracy theory propagandist. In his books and films, he has defended American slavery and European colonialism. His 2007 book claims that the American cultural left incited anger and hatred of Muslim extremists, leading to the 9/11 attacks. His 2010 book on former President Obama groundlessly alleges that Obama was “living out his father’s dreams” such that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo Tribesman of the 1950s”, whom D’Souza characterize as a “philandering, inebriated African socialist.” His 2017 book espouses his baseless likening of the 2016 Democratic Party to the Third Reich.
D’Souza wrote and co-directed a 2012 smear film of then President Obama, which the Associated Press fact checked into oblivion. His 2016 smear film of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party received endorsement from Donald Trump. His 2018 film comparing President Donald Trump to President Abraham Lincoln enjoyed a showing in Washington D.C. co-hosted by President Trump’s son, Don Jr.
In 2014, D’Souza pled guilty to one felony count of making illegal contributions in the name of others. Two months before his son would co-host the special showing of D’Souza’s pro-Trump film, President Trump pardoned D’Souza.
Mathew L. Golsteyn
Golsteyn, a former Green Beret, was suspected in the killing of an Afghan man, whom he alleged was a bomb maker for the Taliban. The original investigation resulted in no charge, but saw Golsteyn stripped of his silver star, Special Forces tab, and issued a letter of reprimand for violation of the U.S. military’s rules of engagement. During one television appearance, Golsteyn confirmed his killing of the man, causing the Army to reopen the case and charge him with murder.
In December 2018, President Trump tweeted he would review Golsteyn’s case. The following year President Trump pardoned Golsteyn along with others accused or convicted of war crimes. Trump’s pardon meant that Golsteyn would not be charged.
Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr. & Steven Dwight Hammond
The Hammonds are a father and son cattle rancher duo who over the course of decades leveled many horrifying threats at federal officials and committed multiple arsons on federal land in their ongoing dispute with various federal agencies over access to protected wildlife areas.
In 2018 President Trump commuted the pair’s sentences as well as granting them full pardon of the crimes for which they were convicted.
It’s important to note that while the Hammonds served as inspiration for the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the two disavowed the standoff led by extremists.
Kerik is a former policeman appointed by then Mayor Rudy Giuliani first deputy corrections commissioner then NY Police Commissioner. During his tenure Kerik routinely abused the powers of his office, including using “an apartment originally set aside for weary rescue workers at ground zero as a nest for an extramarital affair”. Kerik pled guilty to 8 counts of federal felony charges including tax fraud and making false statements. He served 3 years and 5 months in minimum security.
Giuliani joined President Trump’s legal team in 2018, less than 2 years later, Giuliani’s old friend Kerik was pardoned.
Libby was an advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney. As former fellow WH staffer Mary Matalin tellingly describes: “He is to the vice president what the vice president is to the president[.]” Libby, a war criminal, instrumental in leading the US to invade Iraq on falsified intelligence, was ultimately fell by his involvement in a CIA leak. (BTW, for a refresher on the Iraq War/to familiarize yourself with the second Bush administration, I recommend the 2018 film Vice) Liddy did not serve any prison time as then President Bush commuted his sentence before it even began, in an exceptional use of the President’s power.
Liddy was the third person pardoned by President Trump, after Arpaio and Kristian Saucier.
Lorance was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Immediately after his appointment, Lorance showed he was wholly unfit, during incidents such as:
appellant [(Lorance)] encountered an Afghan villager with a young child. The villager was asking to move some concertina wire on the road leading to Strong Point Payenzai that was impeding his ability to work on his farm. Appellant told the villager that if he touched the concertina wire, he and his family would be killed.
The next day, appellant ordered two of his soldiers to go up into one of the towers and shoot harassing fire in the general direction of villagers.
A day later, Lorance “ordered PFC Skelton to engage the motorcycle. PFC Skelton complied and fired his weapon, but missed.” Following which, “over his portable radio, [Lorance] ordered the platoon’s gun truck to engage the men [….] killing two of the riders and wounding the third.” For this Lorance was ultimately convicted and “sentenced to 20 years in prison, forfeiture of all pay, and dismissal from the Army.”
Since his conviction, Lorance drew immense support from rightwing activists, campaigning relentlessly for his pardon. In November 2019, President Trump pardoned Lorance, after Lorance had served 6 years in prison.
Rubashkin was the CEO of his father’s meatpacking plant, which became the only one authorized by Israel’s Orthodox rabbinate to export beef to Israel. While the business grew enormously, it also came under fire for its deplorable treatment of animals. In 2004, secretly filmed footage inside the plant:
showed that after steers were cut by a ritual slaughterer, other workers pulled out the animals’ tracheas with a hook to speed bleeding. In the tape, animals were shown staggering around the killing pen with their windpipes dangling out, slamming their heads against walls and soundlessly trying to bellow. One animal took three minutes to stop moving.
Additionally, the plant was cited 250 times in 2006 alone for noncompliance with food safety standards. The EPA also filed a complaint for the plant’s wastewater treatment in 2004. A 2008 raid, resulting in the arrest of 389 illegal immigrants, revealed at least 29 children worked at the plant. Rubashkin was charged with 67 counts of child labor law violations. However, “after winning the financial fraud conviction, federal prosecutors dismissed all immigration-related charges.”
An investigation by the Washington Post found that “Alan Dershowitz, a Trump ally who defended the president at his impeachment trial, got in a pitch for client Sholom Rubashkin.” President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, was Rubashkin’s most vocal advocate inside the White House, according to two former officials. With broad support in the community, Rubashkin became the first federal prisoner to receive a commutation of the remainder of his sentence by President Trump.
The second ever person to receive Trump’s presidential pardon, Saucier was a Navy petty officer convicted of unlawful retention of national defense information and obstruction of justice as he destroyed his camera and computer after his phone containing the illegal photos was found.
During his trial, Saucier argued that he should receive probation, not prison time, because Hillary Clinton was never indicted for her emails.
Saucier was sentenced in August, 2016, and immediately began lobbying for his pardon. Saucier’s application was denied because, according to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, “the [Justice] Department’s regulations require a petitioner to wait a period of at least five years after conviction or release from confinement (whichever is later)”. His case arose to then candidate Trump’s attention, who reiterated the baseless comparison between Saucier’s wrongdoing and Clinton emails.
On March 4th, 2018, Saucier appeared on Fox & Friends to plead his case for a presidential pardon. President Trump delivered just 6 days later, adding his congratulations on Twitter to Saucier, whom he characterizes as one “who served proudly” despite the treacherous nature of Saucier’s crimes.
Stone spent decades in politics, as a known “dirty trickster”. Throughout his career, Stone’s M.O. centered on threats, tricks, and vile remarks on his opponents. Media Matters for America keeps watch of his outrageously hateful behavior and speech. Stone is also a close associate of the violent rightwing hate group the Proud Boys. To learn more about Roger Stone, I recommend the Netflix documentary “Get Me Roger Stone.”
Beginning with Stone’s indictment in the Mueller investigation, President Trump vigorously defended his longterm friend, deriding judge, prosecutors, and jurors involved. Ultimately the Justice Department intervened in Stone’s sentencing, and his prosecutors withdrew in protest with one in particular resigning altogether. Subsequently more than 2,500 former DOJ employees backed an open letter asking Attorney General Willam Barr to resign.
Stone was able to delay reporting to federal prison citing concerns over Covid-19, while prisons across the nation have broken out as hot spots due to overcrowding and inadequate PPE. Yet alas President Trump commuted Stone’s sentence in July, 4 days before Stone was due.
So, here we have it! This post was brought to you by… my irrepressible need to look everything up. P.S. if you encounter a paywall for anything linked in this post, simply use a different web browser or Google Chrome’s Incognito mode, happy reading!