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March 10, 2018

Prez Trump issues his second pardon; Kristian Saucier, whom prosecutors sought imprisoned for six years, served year for taking photos in classified sub room

I am pleased to report that President Donald Trump is continuing to make use of his clemency power during the first part of his first term.  A relatively high-profile case is yet again the subject of his activity, as reported in this Politico article headlined "Trump pardons sailor in submarine photos case." Here are the details:

President Donald Trump has pardoned a Navy submariner sentenced to prison for taking photos inside the classified engine room of a nuclear submarine, the White House announced on Friday.

Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier pleaded guilty in May 2016 to two felony counts, one for unlawful retention of national defense information and another for obstruction of justice, for taking cellphone pictures inside the Navy vessel and later destroying his own equipment upon learning he was under investigation.

“The president has pardoned Kristian Saucier, a Navy submariner,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced at a briefing with reporters. The Justice Department later confirmed the move. Sanders added that “the president is appreciative of Mr. Saucier's service to the country.”

The move marked just the second pardon Trump has granted since entering office, with the first extended in August to Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt of court in a case involving his tactics targeting undocumented immigrants.

Saucier was sentenced to 12 months in prison for mishandling classified information. Critics have cited the episode to allege a double standard in how low- and high-ranking U.S. officials handle sensitive material. The president brought the case back into public view in January, when he compared the treatment of Saucier with that of his former electoral opponent Hillary Clinton and her top campaign officials....

Prosecutors had sought a much steeper sentence for the former Navy machinist, calling for him to face six years in prison, but the judge gave a more lenient sentence, a point the White House highlighted in announcing his pardon. “The sentencing judge found that Mr. Saucier’s offense stands in contrast to his commendable military service,” Sanders noted.

Though I would like to see Prez Trump issuing many more clemency grants, particularly in lower-profile cases, I remain quite pleased that Prez Trump is continued to use his clemency powers more during his first three years in office than did the last three presidents combined.

Related post on prior clemency grants:

March 10, 2018 at 10:35 AM | Permalink


The pardon of Joe Arpaio was an abuse of the pardon power and is nothing to be happy about. This is a somewhat curious choice for various reasons. One notable thing is how it again is for someone punished rather lightly:

"Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier pleaded guilty in May 2016 to two felony counts, one for unlawful retention of national defense information and another for obstruction of justice, for taking cellphone pictures inside the Navy vessel and later destroying his own equipment upon learning he was under investigation."

Seems fairly serious. One year in prison for two felony counts, plus supervised release. This is not some grave violation of justice, even if some are criticizing it. Why exactly, among everything else, is THIS being singled out? For a full and unconditional pardon? https://www.justice.gov/pardon/pardons-granted-president-donald-trump Oh. He used it to attack Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

I'm quite supportive of use of the pardon power and change to increase its usage. But, improvement here should be done in a sensible rational big picture way. I'm in no way quite pleased with this slapdash approach.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 10, 2018 12:41:56 PM

Obstruction of Injustice - one down, a million to go.

Posted by: albeed | Mar 10, 2018 2:23:04 PM

Fair points, Joe, but I will always prefer slapdash to nothing....

Posted by: Doug B | Mar 10, 2018 5:57:23 PM

"seems pretty serious"--not really. The material was confidential, and the release was happenstance--obviously, the cover-up lying wasn't good, but someone tell that to Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills.

They dropped the hammer on this guy. Hillary got kid-glove treatment.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 11, 2018 8:59:09 AM

"Slapdash" can be worse, "nothing" ignores the process in place that had results & "slapdash" is not the only problem with the Joe Arpaio pardon.


federalist's defense brief [including spinning things to what other people did*] is appreciated on some level, I guess, but still think it is pretty serious.

A Navy Times article on this case says things started when a supervisor found a cell phone at town dump & it was discovered to have classified pictures on it of a submarine. Sensitive stuff. Plus, there is evidence he shared the photos with others. And, various aspects of the photos seemed curious to investigators.

Then, during the investigation, he "smashed his laptop, a camera and an SD card." He didn't just lie. He destroyed evidence. I recently noted that lying to investigators can be pretty serious. Lying and destroying evidence when what is at issue is sensitive classified information that if it got in the wrong hands can be problematic is pretty serious too. He also told a witness not to talk.


This all seems fairly serious if only up to a point taking everything into consideration. Which was suggested by the punishment -- a year in prison with supervised release. Many languishing in prison would like such a "hammer."

BTW, he was out of prison last September. Joe Arpaio was pardoned even before he was sentenced for something that would at most have been a minor sentence. What curious usage of the pardon power.


* Saucier’s lawyers cited Clinton but acknowledged that the two cases were different. https://www.cnn.com/2016/08/19/politics/judge-sentence-sailor-clinton-defense/index.html

Posted by: Joe | Mar 11, 2018 11:06:41 AM

No matter how you puff up Saucier's crimes, they really aren't that big a deal. The information was confidential, which is the lowest form of classification, and the lying/destruction involved his own stuff. For whatever reason, they decided to drop the hammer, and it's impossible not to juxtapose Hillary's wiping clean of her server (a problem under the FRA, by the way) and the fact that she had TS stuff on it.

The Hillary case brings up a serious issue--different law for different people, and it is surpassing funny to watch liberals turn the hapless Saucier into a horrible criminal.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 11, 2018 11:32:51 AM

Joe, what is the "the process in place that had results"? The last three Prez granted ZERO pardons and commutations over their first two years in office. And if you are talking about Prez Obama's late-in-his-second-term clemency "process," it created no true infrastructure for a continued "process in place."

I would very much like to see a true clemency process/infrastructure created at the federal level to make clemency recs to Prez, but I am not expecting that from "law and order" Trump. Obama talked like this was something he might be inclined to do, but because he left behind truly nothing, I am still inclined to be pleased to get at least "curious usage of the pardon power" rather than no use of the pardon power.

Posted by: Doug B | Mar 11, 2018 12:08:57 PM

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