Trump pardons OR ranchers whose case sparked 2016 militia standoff

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday

Trump pardons OR ranchers whose case sparked 2016 militia standoff

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

The decision sparked a protest from Ammon Bundy and dozens of others, who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near the Hammond ranch in southeastern OR from January 2 to February 11, 2016, complaining the Hammonds were victims of federal overreach.

But they send a message that Trump also delivered with his previous pardon of lawless Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio: which is that when a certain kind of (white) frontier-justice renegade decides to defy the federal government, it's the offender, not the government, who gets the benefit of the doubt.

The armed occupiers changed the refuge's name to the Harney County Resource Center, reflecting their belief that the federal government has only a very limited right to own property within a state's borders.

The pardons come as some federal employees in the rural West are wary of what they say is a high likelihood that more standoffs could develop, NPR's Kirk Siegler reports, citing soil scientists, cattle range managers, and the people who staff recreation sites.

Cliven Bundy said he was glad Trump pardoned the Hammonds. "He can't give them back their life".

The Hammonds were being held at a federal detention center south of Los Angeles.

They were sentenced to prison and released after serving their time. "As ranchers across eastern OR frequently tell me, the Hammonds didn't deserve a five year sentence for using fire as a management tool, something the federal government does all the time".

Dwight Hammond, now 76, has served about three years in prison and Steven Hammond, 49, about four years.

A trial court agreed with the Hammonds that the five-year mandatory minimum sentence was unconstitutional and imposed lesser sentences, the U.S. Attorney's Office statement said.

"At the Hammonds' original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum, 5-year prison sentence would "shock the conscience" and be "grossly disproportionate to the severity" of their conduct", White Press Secretary Sarah Sanders wrote in a statement.

Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond were granted executive grants of clemency by Trump, according to a White House statement.

The armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in remote southeast OR followed a judge's ruling sending Dwight Hammond and his son Steven back to prison to serve longer terms after their initial release from shorter sentences.

Republican strategist John Weaver on Tuesday warned that President Donald Trump is appeasing "ultra right militia" groups by pardoning two ranchers who sparked the armed takeover of an OR wildlife refuge.

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