President Donald Trump sent out a retweet of a conservative pundit’s comparisons between his recent pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and two other pardon’s that former President Barack Obama made late in his tenure. In doing so, Trump made a false comparison between those pardons — including the fact that the two individuals Obama released didn’t actually receive pardons at all.
The tweet was originally made by Katie Pavlich, a conservative columnist for the Hill, who suggested that Obama released a traitor and a terrorist through his pardon power while serving as president. Trump retweeted the statement earlier on Monday morning.
Your boss pardoned a traitor who gave U.S. enemies state secrets, he also pardoned a terrorist who killed Americans. Spare us the lecture. https://t.co/90jZcPXYqx
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) August 27, 2017
Though she doesn’t list them by names, the two individuals Pavlich is referring to are Chelsea Manning, who released secret (but not technically classified) information to WikiLeaks nearly a decade ago, and Oscar Lopez Rivera, a member of a nationalist organization in Puerto Rico that bombed several American cities in the 1970s.
The comparison between the Arpaio pardon made by Trump is a tough one to defend against the situations these two individuals went through, especially since Obama didn’t pardon either them — rather, he commuted, or shortened, their sentences. Manning was in prison for seven years for her classified leak; Lopez Rivera served 35 years for his involvement with a terrorist organization.
In both instances, the sentence for each was extraordinarily longer than what is typically given out. In Manning’s case, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her leaks, a stronger punishment than most receive for committing similar crimes to the same degree. Lopez Rivera, similarly, spent the longest time behind bars out of any member of the organization he belonged to, and his commutation for time already served was comparable to others that performed similar acts.
Meanwhile, Trump’s pardoning of Arpaio completely expunged his record from any criminal wrongdoing he was convicted of. While Manning and Lopez Rivera both will continue to have their convictions on record, Arpaio will not. He will also not serve any time in prison for his criminal misdeeds.
The comparison between Trump’s recent pardon and Obama’s commutation of sentences disregards one other important fact: that the defense of Trump’s pardon doesn’t rest on what other presidents have done. Trump clearly pardoned Arpaio based on their political partnership, and it raises serious Constitutional concerns about who he may pardon in the future.
Watch this video of Obama explaining his commutation of Chelsea Manning: