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Donald Trump has pardoned two Oregon ranchers whose conviction on federal arson charges inspired the Bundy Slob Militia to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the first weeks of 2016. The pardon will spring Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49, from the federal pen where they've been serving five-year sentences. This a huge victory in the wingnuttosphere! Anti-government types are cheering because the pardon rolls back supposed tyrannical government overreach by the Obama administration, and makes the West safe for law-defying ranchers again. Beyond that, the truly unhinged conspiracy folks are even more thrilled, because don't you know the only reason the feds went after the Hammonds -- and Cliven Bundy, for that matter -- was so Hillary Clinton could steal their land to sell to RUSSIA for URANIUM ONE?


1: The Regular Crazy

The Hammonds' squabble with the Bureau of Land Management has long been a cause celebre with an assortment of Sagebrush Rebellion types, plus a wider crowd of anti-government militia types like the Bundy family, who believe in a completely mythical version of the US Constitution that prohibits the feds from owning any land other than Washington DC and military bases. In 2001, the Hammonds set a fire that got out of control and burned BLM land adjacent to the Hammond Ranch. The Hammonds claimed it was to control invasive species, while the government offered evidence the Hammonds were covering up evidence of out of season hunting:

Witnesses at trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property. 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." One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson. The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations.

The Hammonds were convicted of arson in 2012, a federal judge sentenced the elder Hammond to three months and his son to one year; the Hammonds convinced that judge the mandatory minimum sentence of five years was unconstitutionally excessive. Oregon's then-US Attorney appealed the lighter sentence, arguing the trial judge didn't have discretion to toss out the mandatory minimum; she also noted the ranchers had turned down a plea deal that would have resulted in less than a year in prison each.

In October 2015, the Hammonds were ordered back to prison to serve out the remainder of their terms. The Bundy occupation of the wildlife refuge began January 2, 2016, the weekend before the Hammonds were due to report to prison. The Hammonds' attorney at the time issued a statement saying they wanted nothing to do with the armed loonies who claimed they'd seized he wildlife refuge on the Hammonds' behalf.

In today's statement about the pardon, Sarah Huckabee Sanders glossed over the arson and the poaching, not to mention the Hammonds' additional lawbreaking and other fires on public land. Why would she, when she could slam Obama's federal overreach?

Sanders said an "overzealous appeal" of the Hammonds' original sentences during the Obama administration, which sent them back to prison, was "unjust."

"The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West," Sanders said, adding: "Justice is overdue."

And also probably poachers who set a wildfire to destroy evidence of illegal hunting and endangered firefighters, but let's not quibble about bygones. Sometimes you just have to ignore the law, right fellas?

2: The Extra Heavy-Duty Crazy

We'd never heard of this crap before today's pardons, but apparently the plain vanilla Government Can't Own Land lunacy of the Bundy folks isn't enough for some fans of vast government conspiracies, as the Twitter machine rapidly made clear:

Wut? We mean, what the mother-loving Group W Bench WHAT? Turns out there is a vast pile of wingnut conspiracies, all based on other groundless conspiracy glop, claiming that the REAL reason the federal government went after the Hammonds -- and Cliven Bundy before them -- was to STEAL THEIR LAND and hand it over to the Russian government to mine uranium on, all at the behest of Hillary Clinton. Who actually left office as secretary of State in February 2013, while the Nevada standoff occurred in 2014 and the retrial of the Hammonds was in 2015, but hey, the government was out to steal the Hammonds' ranch since even before the 2001 arson, so that just shows how far back the plot goes.

We won't trouble you with all the rabbit-hole crazy details on this, except to note that it is really a very big deal in the Conspiracysphere, even though A) The feds have not at any time actually taken the Hammonds' ranch, and 2) there's no indication that the Hammonds' property even has uranium deposits under it, not to mention that III) the Uranium One "scandal" is itself a pile of grade-A horseshit, not least because Russia never had any export rights to American uranium.

In the few cases we found where conspiracy fans even try to offer any evidence, like this WND piece based on an obscure rightwing blog (by a guy who also raves about MIND CONTROL), the genius detectives seize on one teensy true fact: In 2012, there really was a proposal to mine uranium in southern Malheur County. Bit of a problem with that as proof of a vast conspiracy: The company that wanted to do the mining was an LLC from Australia, and the mining site was actually on the Oregon/Nevada border, a good 150 miles from the Hammond ranch near Burns, Oregon. But, but, "Malheur"! And Uranium! And maybe the Aussies were in league with the Russians, like they so often are

In conclusion, isn't it nice to know that even in today's crazy world of today, there are still some people tho can make anti-government loons like the Bundys seem fairly stable by comparison?

What, you don't find that reassuring?

When the going gets weird, Wonkette keeps you going. Click here to keep US going!

[Oregonian / WaPo / WND]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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