Democrats Raise Concerns of Potential Bribery in Pardon Trump Granted at Request of Campaign Donor
WASHINGTON — Two Democrats from a House committee on Friday alleged a suspicious conflict of interest in a pardon former President Donald Trump granted two convicted arsonists.
In a letter they sent to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, they say a donation to Trump’s political campaign days before he granted the pardons may be cause for “significant concerns” about a case of potential bribery.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., make the allegations against real estate developer Mike Ingram, who was a donor to a Trump super PAC, or political action committee.
He sought a pardon for Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven. The Hammonds managed federal land under an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
In 2012, they notified the Bureau of Land Management that a fire they started to burn off invasive species inadvertently spread to public property.
“However, witnesses, including a relative, later came forward and testified that Steven Hammond had instructed companions to drop lit matches on the ground, with the effect of destroying evidence that a Hammond hunting party had illegally slaughtered deer on the BLM lands,” the letter to Haaland says.
The Hammonds were convicted of arson and sentenced to five years in prison.
The conviction drew protests in their local community among their supporters who complained about what they called excessive government intervention in land management. Ingram was one of their supporters.
In 2018, an associate of Ingram sent an email to the Interior Department arguing for a pardon of the Hammonds. Ingram already was a donor to Trump’s campaign, which gave him access to high-level administration officials to lobby for his interests, according to congressional Democrats.
Weeks later, Ingram donated $10,000 to the pro-Trump America First Action, Inc. political action committee. Trump pardoned the Hammonds eight days later.
Grijalva and Porter are asking the Interior Department for documents of any communications about the Hammonds between the agency’s staff and Ingram or any other information about the pardons.
They said their concern now is the second time they have suspected bribery by Ingram of Trump administration officials.
In May, the Natural Resources Committee asked the Justice Department to investigate their concerns about the Interior Department granting a clean water permit for an Ingram residential real estate project in Benson, Arizona, called Villages at Vigneto. The permit was denied the first time Ingram’s company applied for it.
The Interior Department reversed itself to give Ingram the permit shortly after he donated about $250,000 to the Republican National Committee and Trump’s reelection campaign.
“The parallels between the Vigneto case and the Hammonds’ pardons raise significant concerns about another potential case of bribery under the Trump administration and warrant further investigation,” the letter to Haaland says.