President Donald Trump rolled out a new argument in defense of his controversial pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio: other drug dealers and ‘dangerous criminals’ who got presidential pardons were far worse.
Trump got asked about his Friday night pardon of Arpaio at a press conference Monday, and immediately dispatched with the prevailing theory that the Friday night news dump – as Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas coast – was a political tactic to avoid scrutiny.
‘Actually in the middle of a hurricane even though it was a Friday evening I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally –you know the hurricane was just started,’ Trump said.
Trump hailed Arpaio as a ‘patriot’ – but then brought up past pardon recipients, including indicted financier Marc Rich, who got a pardon from President Clinton on Clinton’s last day in office.
President Donald Trump helped a Fox News personality digitally slap a former Obama aide over his pardon powers on Monday
‘He was pardoned after his wife donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Clintons,’ Trump said, in reference to Denise Rich’s contributions.
‘President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, who was charged with crimes going back decades, including illegally buying oil from Iran while it held 53 American hostages.’
Trump also brought up President Obama’s controversial commutation of the sentence of Chelsea Manning, despite Manning’s massive intelligence leak, along with others. She had been serving seven years of a 35 year sentence, the longest for an intelligence leak.
Trump retweeted a post from Katie Pavlich that took former Obama spokesman Ben Rhodes to task for the January pardons of ‘traitor’ Chelsea Manning and ‘terrorist’ Oscar López Rivera
‘Then you have dangerous criminals. President Clinton pardoned Susan Rosenberg, a member of the Weather Underground, charged as part of a bank robbery that led to a bank guard and two police officers being killed. Drug dealers. President Clinton commuted the sentence of Carlos Vignali, a central player in a cocaine ring that stretched from California to Minnesota. Criminal leaker!’ Trump said.
‘You’ve heard the word “leaker?’ Trump continued. ‘President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who leaked countless sensitive and classified documents to WikiLeaks, perhaps and others, but horrible, horrible thing that he did, commuted the sentence. And perhaps pardoned. President Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was charged as part of a violent independence group from Puerto Rico responsible for 28 Chicago-area bombings and many deaths in the 1970s and 1980s.’
Financier Marc Rich is shown in this Nov. 30, 1998, photo in Zug, central Switzerland. Rich has lived in Switzerland since just before he was indicted in the United States in 1983 on charges of evading more than $48 million in taxes, fraud and participating in illegal oil deals with Iran. Former President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich on Jan. 20, 2001
Chelsea Manning (right), served in the U.S. Army as male ‘Bradley’ but later became female; she served only one-fifth of her sentence for espionage
‘Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders. And Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won. And he was elected many times. So I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe, and I think the people of Arizona who really know him best would agree with me,’ Trump said.
Donald Trump used his social media reach on Monday to promote a Fox News star’s tweet that blasted his predecessor over his controversial uses of presidential pardons.
Trump last week pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who faced sentencing in October following a criminal contempt conviction related to his policy of targeting suspected illegal immigrants for traffic stops.
Obama’s former National Security Council spokesman, Ben Rhodes, piped up that the former president ‘used his pardon and commutation power to give a second chance to people who deserved empathy, not racists who showed none.’
Katie Pavlich, a frequent panelist on Fox’s ‘Outnumbered’ program, responded on Saturday: ‘Your boss pardoned a traitor who gave U.S. enemies state secrets, he also pardoned a terrorist who killed Americans. Spare us the lecture.’
Trump retweeted Pavlich’s post on Monday morning.
Pavlich’s use of the word ‘traitor’ referred to Chelsea Manning, whose 35-year espionage conviction was commuted by Obama during his last days in office.
Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, was an Army Private who passed millions of classified documents to the anti-privacy WikiLeaks website.
He was convicted in a 2013 Army court-martial and served 7 years in a military prison, beginning with his 2010 arrest, before Obama ended his confinement.
The second half of Pavlich’s tweet – ‘a terrorist who killed Americans’ – was likely a reference to Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican guerrilla who helped lead the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), a Marxist paramilitary terror organization.
Barack Obama let Oscar Lopez Rivera leave federal prison despite his 1981 convictions for seditious conspiracy, armed robbery, interstate transportation of firearms and conspiracy to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property
The FALN was responsible for more than 130 bombings between 1974 and 1983, killing six people and injuring dozens. Its leaders also threatened to blow up nuclear power stations and plotted to kidnap then-President Ronald Reagan’s son.
He was convicted in 1981 of seditious conspiracy, armed robbery, interstate transportation of firearms and conspiracy to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property, and drew a 55-year prison term.
López Rivera’s indictment listed 24 separate Chicago-area bombings. FBI agents recovered dynamite and detonators, along with a cache of firearms, from his two homes.
Former Obama aide Ben Rhodes (left) started the spat by claiming Obama used his clemency powers to help ‘people who deserved empathy’; Fox’s Katie Pavlich (right) put that to the test
The online squabble started when Trump pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio, pictured at a Nevada presidential campaign event last year
In 1999 President Bill Clinton offered him clemency along with 11 other FALN terrorists, if they renounced violence.
López Rivera refused, complaining that Clinton didn’t extend the same offer to another FALN member who had planned to help him escape from the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.
The plot was to involve landing a helicopter inside the prison yard while passengers strafed guard towers with automatic weapons and threw grenades at prison officers who pursued the escapees.