On Wednesday, Donald Trump granted a pardon to a former business parter who last year wrote a book with the title Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.
It wasn’t the first time he’s handed a pardon to a political ally. In his first two and half years in office, Trump has issued ten pardons and most have gone to conservative activists and folk heroes.
This isn’t unprecedented. Past presidents have used their pardon power to benefit political allies, but as Aaron Blake notes in the Washington Post, they’ve typically waited until later in their terms and they tended to mix in “other pardons that don’t so clearly and obviously benefit themselves.”
There may be a strategy behind Trump’s pardons. By issuing them early in his presidency, Trump could be signaling to allies mixed up with the law that loyalty will win them a pardon, too. At least, that’s what Roger Stone thinks.
Here’s everyone Trump has pardoned, so far:
The longtime sheriff of Maricopa County and racist right-wing superhero was convicted for defying court orders after Trump’s own Justice Department prosecuted him in the summer of 2017. But Arpaio, perhaps the only birther more committed than Trump, was a loyal Trump campaign surrogate who shares the president’s zeal for rounding up bad hombres. In the August of 2017, he became the first person pardoned by Trump and the first person ever pardoned by tweet.
The sailor served 12 months after he pleaded guilty to photographing elements of the U.S.S. Alexandria’s nuclear propulsion system. Saucier’s lawyers argued in his August 2016 sentencing that the sailor was being treated worse than Hillary Clinton, who was in the news at the time for her use of a private email server. Trump caught wind of this and made frequent use of Saucier’s story on the campaign trail. Sarah Sanders explained that Trump pardoned the sailor because he was “appreciative of Mr. Saucier’s service to the country.”
Lewis “Scooter” Libby
Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff was convicted in 2007 of revealing the identity of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA officer whose husband had annoyed the Bush administration. Then Libby lied about it. President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence, but a pardon would not arrive until Trump took office. It’s still not clear why Trump pardoned Libby.
Johnson’s is the one name on this list that’s not like the others. The first black heavyweight champion, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act for transporting his white girlfriend across state lines for “immoral purposes.” Though he died in 1946, Jackson’s cause drew the attention of a handful of celebrities, including Sylvester Stallone, who brought it to Trump’s attention.
A political commentator and maker of over-the-top political films, D’Souza pleaded guilty to violating campaign-finance law in 2014. He was sentenced to five years of probation and a $30,000 fine. In May of 2018, Trump granted him a pardon, and a couple of months later, Donald Trump Jr. was alongside D’Souza at the premiere of his latest movie, Death of a Nation.
Dwight and Steven Hammond
This father-and-son duo was convicted in 2012 of setting fires to federal lands. The judge who first sentenced them gave them a break on the mandatory five-year sentence, but the Obama administration fought back and won. The Hammonds quickly achieved right-wing folk-hero status, with their imprisonment cited by another anti-government clan, the Bundys, who occupied an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016. In a statement at the time of the pardon, the Trump administration called the government’s treatment of the Hammonds “unjust.”
Earlier this month, Trump granted a pardon to former Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, who was convicted of unpremeditated murder in the killing of an Iraqi man. Behenna has claimed that he acted in self-defense and claimed that prosecutors withheld evidence from his defense attorneys during his trail. In recent years, he’s won many high-profile allies in his home state of Oklahoma, including former Governor Mary Fallin, Attorney General Mike Hunter, and members of Congress, who lobbied Trump on Behenna’s behalf. The ACLU called the pardon a “presidential endorsement of a murder.”
In 2015, after he’d served more than three years in prison on fraud and obstruction charges, billionaire businessman Conrad Black wrote an article for National Review that began with the sentence, “It is time to look more seriously at the Donald Trump presidential candidacy.” Three and half years and one book later — last year, Black wrote Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other — he was rewarded with a pardon from the man who he once partnered with to build Chicago’s Trump Tower.
The former Republican leader in the California General Assembly, Nolan last year called Jared Kushner a “superstar,” who in turn called Nolan his “friend.” The conservative activist, who served 29 months on federal racketeering charges, also criticized the Mueller probe last year. That was presumably enough to get Trump’s attention.