Trump pardons ranchers whose case sparked Bundy takeover of OR refuge

Justin Sullivan  Getty Images North America

Justin Sullivan Getty Images North America

Rugged individualists to some, risky arsonists to others, a father and son who were convicted of intentionally setting fires on public land in OR were pardoned Tuesday by President Donald Trump.

The armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast OR followed a judge's ruling that sent Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, back to prison to serve more time after their initial release.

Our dumpster fire of a president has pardoned two OR arsonists who also threatened to kill federal officials, abused their nephew and illegally ran cattle on a national wildlife refuge.

Dwight Hammond has served approximately three years in prison, and his son Steven has served four years, according to the White House.

The second imprisonment caused a local backlash.

"The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds' responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges", the statement said.

But after the Hammonds were released a Barack Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney named Amanda Marshall appealed the release and the two men were subsequently forced to return to prison when an appeals court ruled Hogan could not reduce the sentences.

This is a very distinct and selective version of the "law and order" he campaigned on, but one that holds enormous appeal to the only people President Trump really cares about: his base.

The pardons are the latest in a growing list of clemency actions by Trump.

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Their plight prompted Ammon and Ryan Bundy's Citizens for Constitutional Freedom to stage a protest, occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern OR from January 2 to February 11, 2016.

The move by Trump raised concerns that others would be encouraged to actively oppose federal control of public land.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands.

Bundy and his supporters were eventually arrested, majority during a confrontation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and state police on a snow-covered roadside where a spokesman for the group, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead. "Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these grants of executive clemency".

Some conservation groups were dismayed at the pardon.

"Pardoning the Hammonds sends a unsafe message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers".

Trump has often used his pardon power to benefit people he sees as targeted by his political opponents.

He has repeatedly referenced emotional video of Johnson being freed from prison and running into her family members' arms, and has said he's considering thousands more cases - both famous and not. In a White House statement, the press secretary said that the Hammonds' five-year prison sentences had been "unjust".

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