Offbeat The Quest to Get a Pardon in the Trump Era: ‘It’s Who You Know’

16:08  12 july  2018
16:08  12 july  2018 Source:   nytimes.com

Michael Cohen tells friends he doesn't think Trump would pardon him

  Michael Cohen tells friends he doesn't think Trump would pardon him Michael Cohen has recently told friends that he is pessimistic that President Donald Trump will offer him a pardon -- one more indication that Cohen does not believe his former boss will have his back. In a phone call with a friend several days before he was interviewed by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos last weekend, Cohen -- who was Trump's personal attorney for years and is currently under criminal investigation in New York -- said he did not believe Trump would wipe his slate clean using the presidential pardon. Cohen has not been charged with any wrongdoing. "I brought up the pardon, and he said, 'I don't think so.

Pardon seekers around the country are watching as President Trump helps people who have celebrity endorsements. “What a slap in the face,” he said. “I’d get it because I know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody.

Although his own record on civil rights has come under question, often harshly, Mr. Trump , flanked by boxing champions and Sylvester Stallone, the actor who brought the case to his attention, signed an order pardoning Johnson. “They couldn’t get the president to sign it ,” Mr. Trump said.

Gary Hendler’s application for a presidential pardon runs nearly 80 pages, detailing the places he has lived, the jobs he’s had, the schools attended, any drug use, debts, good works and a full and contrite account of the crime that led him to this point.

Manafort faces federal trial with a hint of a presidential pardon

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Trump considering pardon for Martha Stewart. Trump issues pardon and teases more to come. Who cares? He' s a dead man. He' s not going to know ," Haywood, 62, said. Gregory Meeks to introduce a resolution to get Johnson a pardon in March of 2017.

' It ' s about time:' The 97-year history of Jack Johnson's quest for a pardon . Johnson, Burns acknowledged, is controversial — perhaps even more so in the era of the "Me Too" movement. So when Trump got a call from Stallone — "I've known him for so long, such a great guy," Trump said

He even has a letter of support from his probation officer.

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Mr. Hendler, who pleaded guilty in 1984 to a drug charge, was optimistic about receiving a pardon from President Barack Obama, who had pushed a more-forgiving policy for nonviolent crimes. But that opportunity came and went.

A new president took over, and with him, apparently a new way of doing things. First came a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff convicted of criminal contempt, whose case had been promoted by the right-wing radio host Alex Jones. Then one for a former Navy sailor whose case was a conservative cause célèbre. And in June, after a trip to the White House by Kim Kardashian West, a commutation arrived for Alice Johnson, who was serving a life sentence on drug charges.

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There’ s no clear pattern to his changing sympathies, which means that when he demands your loyalty, you cannot quite know what it is that you ’re signing up for. You can’t even count on his disloyalty: In August, he cashed in a good deal of political capital to extend a pardon to Joe Arpaio

President Donald Trump pardoned black boxing champion Jack Johnson on Thursday There was a quest for "the great white hope" who would eventually defeat Johnson. She added: "We always knew that he was unfairly convicted, and it was a lot of people who were very distraught.

Mr. Hendler realized he needed a new strategy.

“Kellyanne Conway lives just down the beach from me on the Jersey Shore,” he said of the White House counselor. “I could get her to say something to Trump.” He knows how to reach Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor. And oh! Tucker Carlson’s sister-in-law — he rents a place to her. “I guess this is how it works now,” Mr. Hendler said.

Few constitutional powers lie so wholly at the whims of the president as the power to pardon. No details need to be worked out beforehand and no agency apparatus is needed to carry a pardon out. The president declares a person officially forgiven, and it is so.

A layer of government lawyers has long worked behind the scenes, screening the hundreds of petitions each year, giving the process the appearance of objectivity and rigor. But technically — legally — this is unnecessary. A celebrity game show approach to mercy, doling the favor out to those with political allegiance or access to fame, is fully within the law.

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Trump ' s Moves May Mark A New Era Of The Celebrity Pardon 4:11. If it is a celebrity-driven pardon system, who ' s left behind are some of the people who are most deserving, the ones with the most compelling stories."

Trump , who has issued several pardons and commutations in recent weeks, told reporters that he was "thinking about Muhammad Ali," for a pardon . But even though there is no Ali conviction on the books — the usual reason for a pardon — former DOJ pardon attorneys say it ' s too limited to think

The show isn’t new. Absolving political allies is a notorious if decades-old practice, and Bill Clinton was hardly sticking to procedure when he included friends, family and the well-connected in his last-minute clemency spree. But Mr. Trump is not waiting for the last minute.

On Tuesday, he issued more pardons, this time for two Oregon ranchers who had been serving sentences for arson on federal land. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was apparently among the ranchers’ strongest supporters.

Mr. Trump has said he is considering pardons for Martha Stewart, the lifestyle guru, and Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, and people whose cases are championed by professional football players. He has rebuffed questions as to whether he was planning to pardon any of his own associates — or himself, for that matter.

Pardon seekers have been watching all this. Having once put their hopes in an opaque bureaucratic process, they are now approaching their shot at absolution as if marketing a hot start-up: scanning their network of acquaintances for influence and gauging degrees of separation from celebrity. What’s the best way to get a letter to Sean Hannity, the Fox News host and close Trump ally? How hard would it be to pull aside Robert Jeffress, the prominent Trump-backing pastor, after a church service?

Oregon ranchers who sparked standoff to return home after Trump pardon

  Oregon ranchers who sparked standoff to return home after Trump pardon Two Oregon ranchers whose sentencing on arson convictions sparked the 2016 armed occupation of a wildlife refuge were due to return home on Wednesday, after being pardoned by U.S. President Donald Trump, the family said in a statement. The 41-day standoff, which occurred in response to the jailing of the ranchers for setting a fire that spread to public land, marked a flare-up in the long-simmering dispute over federal land policies in the U.S. West. It turned deadly when police shot one of the occupiers.The family of jailed rancher Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son, Steven, 49, in a statement late Tuesday thanked Trump.

If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get He once smeared an Indiana-born judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico. It ’ s all the same to Not to mention calling white supremacists "very fine people," pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a

I fulminate against Trump in fairly predictable ways. “ You know , Jonathan,” he says, “I never speak ill of people who ’ve posed for me.” “ It was a spiritual quest ,” Serrano says. “When I got to the morgue, I learned that people don’t know what kind of death is in store for us.

“It’s who you know now,” said Weldon Angelos, whose cause for clemency has been supported by politicians, judges and celebrities. At the consent of prosecutors, Mr. Angelos was released from prison in 2016, after serving a quarter of a 55-year sentence on a drug-related conviction. Now he is seeking a full pardon. “Everyone’s now trying to get their names out there, to get some buzz,” he said. “That’s the strategy I’m seeing”

Self-promotion in pursuit of forgiveness comes naturally to some and strikes others as absurd. But there is broad agreement on one point. The standard, procedural route to presidential clemency — a process that has become ever more impenetrable — has hardly been a portrait of justice itself.

“The system,” Mr. Hendler said, “is terribly broken.”

Clemency petitions go through the Office of Pardon Attorney in the Justice Department, a system set up more than a hundred years ago to lessen the risks and hassles of leaving an entire nation’s pleas for compassion to one person. For decades, the process worked smoothly, and hundreds of clemency grants were issued each year. President Dwight D. Eisenhower alone granted over 1,000 pardons.

But starting about 40 years ago, “the prosecutors really got a hold of the process,” said Margaret Love, who was the Pardon Attorney from 1990 to 1997, and now represents clemency applicants. “They became increasingly hostile to the pardon power.”

Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation

  Trump pardons ranchers in case that inspired 2016 occupation President Donald Trump is pardoning two cattle ranchers convicted of arson in a case that case sparked the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon. Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 of intentionally and maliciously setting fires on public lands. The arson crime carried a minimum prison sentence of five years, but a sympathetic federal judge, on his last day before retirement, decided the penalty was too stiff and gave the father and son much lighter prison terms.Prosecutors won an appeal and the Hammonds were resentenced in October 2015 to serve the mandatory minimum.

" It ' s very clear that this is a message he is sending, that you can commit crimes against national security and you will be pardoned ," she added. I am gratedful that President Trump righted this wrong " On Friday, Democrats charged Mr Trump with hypocrisy for pardoning a man who leaked

It ’ s unclear how receptive Trump might be to the idea of a Bundy pardon . In the 1990s, Karen Budd-Falen, a Wyoming property rights lawyer and former Reagan- era Interior Department official, represented ranchers in Bunkersville, where Bundy lives, who sued the BLM for trying to get their

Even as laws have grown harsher, the number of pardons has dwindled significantly.

“It is so secretive and the standards are so subjective,” Ms. Love said. “They operate like a lottery. Except a lottery is fair.”

In 2014, the Obama administration set up a clemency initiative that led to 1,715 sentence commutations, by far the most of any president. Still, this accounted for only about 5 percent of the commutation petitions submitted during his two terms. As for full pardons, the Obama administration was stingier than most of its predecessors. The traditional clemency process, as a pardon attorney described in her 2016 resignation letter, remained sidelined and backlogged.

“The process,” wrote Luke Scarmazzo of his attempt at clemency in the Obama years, “was a bureaucratic nightmare.” In 2008 Mr. Scarmazzo was sentenced to more than two decades in prison for running a medical marijuana dispensary in California. He and his co-defendant, Ricardo Montes, spent months working on an application, but in the end Mr. Montes received a commutation, while Mr. Scarmazzo did not.

Now, “instead of support from career politicians and judges, we’re seeking support from celebrities and influential social icons,” Mr. Scarmazzo wrote in an email from prison. “We’re less focused on pleasing the D.O.J. bureaucracy and more focused on grabbing the attention of the Oval Office.”

Much of the recent focus on clemency has either been on those, like Ms. Johnson, who are seeking release from prison, or on the famous pardon recipients like Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative provocateur, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former aide to Dick Cheney. But there are countless people living quietly and whose time in the criminal justice system is years in the past, but who, because of the ever-expanding tally of consequences for felony convictions, feel permanently confined.

Anti-Government Groups Cheer Trump’s Pardons of Ranchers Who Inspired Militia

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It would be just the third presidential pardon in history intentionally given to someone who has died. A pardon for Johnson would continue a Trump pattern of granting pardons outside the regular process at the Justice Department for vetting pardon applications.

-- It ’ s also another data point of Trump ’s disdain for the rule of law. -- Furthermore, this shows Trump does not believe someone must be contrite to get a pardon . “Cohen, who served for a decade as a lawyer at the Trump Organization, … was known to [record and store] conversations

Alan Fields has been learning this for nearly 25 years. In 1994, he was arrested for working as a cash courier in a drug network overseen by some Detroit high-rollers. He pleaded guilty, testified and was ultimately sentenced to one day in prison. Life was his again, or what was left of it.

A teaching career was not open anymore. Insurance sales was out, given the licensing requirements. Nursing was off-limits, though he eventually married a physician — and he did manage to get work in pharmaceutical sales, because the application asked only about convictions from the previous five years. He could not go hunting, or own a gun. Even his seasons of coaching his son’s youth baseball team were cut short when the league started conducting background checks. Prison or not, a felony conviction, said Mr. Fields, 57, is “a life sentence.”

For years he studied presidential candidates, guessing their inclinations to mercy. Al Gore and Ron Paul seemed promising. Then he saw Barack Obama and thought: “O.K., this is the ideal.”

Mr. Fields’ petition, filed in 2011, was sterling. His sentencing judge wrote in support. He had not gotten so much as a speeding ticket in decades. He was planning on — and is now enrolled in — law school. He seemed to be exactly the kind of person that Mr. Obama wanted to help: a black man with a drug-related conviction who has made the most of his second chance.

The federal agents came around, asking his neighbors and co-workers about him. At the end of 2016 Mr. Fields got a letter from the Justice Department, telling him to make sure his information was up-to-date. Please respond quickly, it said, and he did.

Inauguration Day came, and went.

The soft-spoken Mr. Fields, once too embarrassed about his conviction to lobby his congressional representatives for a pardon, recognizes that the circumstances have changed.

“Now I’ve taken a different position,” he said as he gave a resigned smile across the table. “Obviously.”

On his usual Friday afternoon drive home to Dallas from Houston, a man named Doug Edwards was considering the new strategies himself. “My wife said, ‘Why don’t you send a letter to Franklin Graham?’” he said.

Mr. Edwards, 64, and his wife volunteer as hosts to children flown to the United States for surgical procedures through an organization run by Mr. Graham, the evangelical leader who supports Mr. Trump. This work was part of the case he had made when he applied for a pardon a few years earlier, as evidence that he was trying to lead a productive, rule-abiding life.

He had broken the rules in his wild youth — with a marijuana conviction from 1976 — but he had tried hard ever since, he said, “to be one small cog in a great big wheel.”

Because of his record, he could not re-enlist in the Navy, or join law enforcement, but he did go on to help build hospitals and prisons.

And that is why he won’t contact Mr. Graham.

“What a slap in the face,” he said. “I’d get it because I know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody. It wouldn’t be because I’m a good citizen, law-abiding, trustworthy, on the merits.”

Mr. Edwards looked up at the highway to Dallas. “Do we abide by the current law or do we take on the assumption that you get things by other avenues?” he asked. “I, Doug Edwards, choose to adhere to the letter of the law.”

Pardoned ranchers arrive home, plan lots of 'decompressing' .
Father and son ranchers who were pardoned by President Trump have flown home to Oregon and say they plan to do a lot of 'decompressing and get back to our families' after spending time in prison. Just 25 miles away is a wildlife refuge that was taken over in 2016 by armed protesters angered by the five-year prison sentences given to Dwight and Steven Hammond after they were convicted of setting fires on federal land. The standoff lasted 41 days, ending when occupation leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy were arrested and LaVoy Finicum was killed by authorities.

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