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Boardman writes: "When the target is Hillary Clinton, what's wrong with abuse of power?"

Donald Trump. (photo: Getty)
Donald Trump. (photo: Getty)

Trump Weaponizes Pardon Power: Scorched Earth Campaign Against Law

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

07 June 18

When the target is Hillary Clinton, what’s wrong with abuse of power?

n March, President Trump pardoned Kristian Saucier, convicted of breaching military security by taking and mishandling photos of the reactor room of the nuclear submarine he served on. In June, Kristian Saucier has decided to sue former president Barack Obama and former FBI director James Comey for violating his right to equal protection under the law. On its face it looks like a dark joke, but in the alternate reality it’s news.

Here’s the basic story as reported by assorted media:

Kevin Mark Saucier, now 31, is a native of Arlington, Vermont. He was born in 1986 and eventually enlisted in the Navy. From September 2007 to March 2012, Saucier was a machinist’s mate on the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Alexandria. His job included working on the submarine’s nuclear propulsion system, a classified area where cameras and personal electronic devices were banned. Saucier was trained to be aware of the security limitations of his job. Photography was always banned in engine rooms.

In 2009, for reasons that remain uncertain, Saucier took some number of cellphone photographs in the classified areas of his submarine. He did so on three separate occasions, each time taking two security-violating photographs (January 19 at 4 a.m., March 22 at 1:30 a.m., and July 15 at 12:47 p.m.). These photographs showed only equipment, not people. What, if anything, he did with the photographs before March 2012 remains uncertain. He maintains they were personal mementos. His former wife and his probation officer apparently said Saucier planned to share the photographs with “foreign agencies,” but prosecutors did not bring that into the case. As the US Attorney in Connecticut put it:

SAUCIER had a Secret clearance and knew that the photos depicted classified material and that he was not authorized to take them. He retained these photographs and failed to deliver them to any officer or employee of the U.S. entitled to receive it.

In March 2012, a supervisor at the Hampton, Connecticut, waste transfer station found what turned out to be Saucier’s cellphone. In due course, the nuclear sub photos were discovered and reported to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and to the FBI. The FBI interviewed him, inquiring in particular about any of his other devices. Initially, Saucier denied taking the photographs. After his FBI interview, Saucier took a hammer to a camera, a memory card, and a laptop computer, hiding the parts in the woods near his grandfather’s house in northern Vermont.

On May 28, 2015, Saucier was arrested and charged with unlawful retention of national defense information and obstruction of justice. On May 27 a year later, Saucier pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information.

Before sentencing, Saucier’s attorneys compared Saucier’s case to Hillary Clinton’s much-publicized use of a private email system for State Department business, a years-long offense for which the FBI declined to recommend prosecution. Saucier’s attorneys argued that his offense was far less of a breach than Clinton’s and that Saucier should get a comparable punishment. By then the Saucier-less-guilty-than-Clinton meme had gone viral in the right-wing mediasphere, and Donald Trump was using it on the campaign trail.

On August 19, 2016, a federal judge sentenced Saucier to one year in prison, three years of supervised release with electronic monitoring, 100 hours of community service and fined him $100. The prosecution had asked for a six-year sentence. The maximum sentence could have been ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Trump in a stump speech said Saucier’s picture-taking was “nothing by comparison to what she’s done” (referring to Hillary Clinton). In Trump’s view:

They took the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine. That’s an old submarine; they’ve got plenty of pictures, if the enemy wants them, they’ve got plenty of them. He wanted to take a couple of pictures. They put him in jail for a year.

On October 4, 2016, in his debate with Senator Tim Kaine, vice presidential candidate Mike Pence brought the Saucier case obliquely into the conversation out of nowhere, in response to no question, as a way to attack Hillary Clinton. Two days later, Saucier’s mother was on Fox News thanking Pence for raising the issue. On October 12, 2016, Saucier entered federal prison to start serving his one-year sentence.

After the election, Saucier’s attorney, Ronald Daigle, met in Trump Tower with Michael Flynn, who encouraged Saucier to file a formal pardon request. Once President Trump was in office, Saucier appealed to him to commute his sentence and grant him a pardon. Despite early denials, Saucier kept appealing.

On September 6, 2017, Saucier was released from prison, having completed his one-year sentence. Saucier returned home to Vermont, re-joining his second wife and their daughter about to turn two. He said his cars had been repossessed and his home was in foreclosure. He expressed mixed feelings about Trump:

I saw him, while I was in prison, talking about my case on the news and he was very vocal about how what happened to me was wrong. Obviously it was kind of an emotional rollercoaster hearing all that stuff and then nothing happening….

I served my country for 11 years, I did two tours in the Middle East, and I would like to have my good name back, that’s what’s most important to me. Nothing can give me back the year I lost with my daughter and wife in prison, but a pardon would definitely restore my good name.

On January 2, 2018, without referring to any pardon request, the President once again used Saucier to bash Hillary Clinton in a tweet:

Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others.

On March 9, 2018, President Trump pardoned Kristian Saucier, the second pardon of his presidency (the first pardon went to Sheriff Joe Arpaio). The next day, Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Kristian Saucier, a man who has served proudly in the Navy, on your newly found Freedom. Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!” To make that life possible, Saucier has a website seeking support based on the pitch: “SENT TO JAIL FOR A FRACTION OF WHAT HILLARY DID.” The website promotes but does not link to Saucier’s book (106 pages), “American Double Standard: Patriot vs. Politician,” for Kindle only, published in December 2017 and described as:

The story of an American Sailor whose life was destroyed for mishandling low level classified information, while Hillary Clinton ran for President of The United States after mishandling Top Secret information.

Now Kristian Saucier is promising to sue Obama and Comey. Saucier’s attorney, Ronald Daigle, a solo practitioner in Granville, New York, has said the suit will likely be filed soon in Manhattan after a six-month waiting period has passed. He sent a notice of intent to the Justice Department and others in December 2017. Daigle is a former Granville police chief and town justice. He has not articulated any legal basis for the suit. He has not specified a goal for the suit other than to say: “We’re seeking to cast a light on this to show that there’s a two-tier justice system and we want it to be corrected.” Saucier said much the same thing:

They interpreted the law in my case to say it was criminal but they didn’t prosecute Hillary Clinton. Hillary is still walking free. Two guys on my ship did the same thing and weren’t treated as criminals. We want them to correct the wrong.

Actually, “two guys on my ship” did NOT do the same thing. Those two guys each took only one picture, not six. And each of those pictures was a selfie, albeit in the engine room – not six pictures showing details of the engine room layout.

Nothing about the Kristian Saucier story looks quite right. Even his mother takes pains not to claim he’s innocent. If this is just another small town hustle in Trump country, it’s still a scam that would be impossible without the collusion of a presidential pardon. If it turns out to be an actual lawsuit, if anything is ever filed and taken seriously, it will be another Trumpian sideshow that undermines the rule of law and civic seriousness.

On the other hand, giving Hillary Clinton a pass didn’t do much for the rule of law or civic seriousness, either.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theater, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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