A.M. UPDATE: Trump pardons Dwight and Steven Hammond

President Trump pardons Oregon ranchers who inspired takeover of federal refuge

President Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to OR ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr., and his son Steven - whose case spurred armed militants led by Ammon Bundy to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days in 2016.

The two men, Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, were convicted in 2012 for setting fire to federal lands where they held grazing rights for their cattle.

The Hammonds said the fires they had set on their own property to fight invasive plant species had accidentally spread to public lands.

The organizers wanted to protest federal land ownership. Most notably, members of another anti-government family, the Bundys, cited the Hammonds as their inspiration for facing down what they called an oppressive government when they occupied a national wildlife refuge in OR, setting up a weeks-long standoff that became front-page news in 2016. In a statement after that ruling, the Department of Justice cited evidence from the first trial, in which "Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out "Strike Anywhere" matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to 'light up the whole country on fire'".

The Hammonds have been locked up since January 4, 2016, after they were re-sentenced following their 2012 conviction for arson on public lands.

In an expected move on Monday, the president announced that Dwight and Steven Hammond would receive full pardons for the arson on federal lands, which encouraged Ammon and Ryan Bundy to instigate the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who represents the area that includes the Hammonds' ranch, cheered Trump's pardon as a win against federal overreach.

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The jury heard from three witnesses who were hunting in 2001 when they saw the Hammonds shoot over their heads to illegally slaughter a herd of deer, according to court documents. "Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency".

Some conservation groups were dismayed at the cattle ranchers' pardon.

"We think this sends a very unsafe message that will put America's park rangers, law enforcement officers and public land managers at risk", he said.

He has said he's considering thousands of other cases -famous and not. The Hammonds could have faced less than a year in prison under a plea offer they declined, she said. Prosecutors appealed, and the Hammonds were ordered to serve the full five-year terms.

News media outlets in the state - including the Oregonian - have published editorials advocating for a presidential pardon, seeking clemency for the two men.

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House said the decision sentencing the Hammonds to five years in prison was "unjust" and said that the fire had burned only "a small portion" of public land.

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