One day after President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-Russia ambassador: Trump has done more damage to NATO in months than Russia has in decades Trump takes credit for increased defense spending by NATO allies, but says ‘it isn’t nearly enough’ Trump questions how Russia probe can ‘proceed’ given FBI agent’s private comments MORE pardoned two Oregon ranchers who were at the center of a 40-day armed standoff, the pair flew home on the private jet of an oil company founder who once donated $50,000 to Vice President Pence.
The ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, made the trip on Wednesday with Lucas Oil founder Forrest Lucas, according to a post on Protect the Harvest’s Facebook page, a nonprofit founded by Lucas.
The Hammonds were convicted in 2012 and sentenced to five years in prison on arson charges. The two had set a series of fires on their ranch that spread to federal land.
Their case prompted the 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, in which protesters demonstrated against federal land ownership.
In its pardon, the White House said there were uncertainties in the Hammonds’ case.
“The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges,” the White House said.
The Times attributes the Hammonds’ private ride home with Lucas to an abundance of lobbying that took place to secure the ranchers’ pardon.
Lucas reportedly donated $50,000 to Pence and his wife while Pence was running for governor of Indiana. According to the Times, Lucas also gave Pence two tickets worth $774 to attend an Indianapolis Colts game in 2017.
Lucas, whose company also owns the naming rights to the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium, has lobbied extensively against animal-rights activists. The Times reported that Lucas used Protect the Harvest to lobby for the Hammonds’ release.
The paper also noted that Lucas had contacted Oregon’s congressional delegation in his effort to release the Hammonds, getting help from the state’s only Republican lawmaker, Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: Trump pardons ranchers whose case sparked standoff | EPA takes step to replace Obama climate rule | Pruitt’s lead spokesman out at EPA Trump pardons Oregon ranchers at center of 40-day standoff Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers press Apple, Google on data collection | 21M affected by Timehop breach | Zuckerberg passes Buffett on rich list | Latest on Twitter’s bot crackdown MORE.
Just two weeks ago, Walden had gave a speech on the House floor calling for the Hammonds’ release.
Walden also wrote on Facebook on July 1 that Trump had called him to tell him he was “seriously considering” pardoning the Oregon ranchers.