Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump fly home on Pence donor's private jet

Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump fly home on Pence donor's private jet
© Protect the Harvest

One day after President TrumpDonald John TrumpFed saw risks to US economy fading before coronavirus spread quickened Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Britain announces immigration policy barring unskilled migrants 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.

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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: Green groups to sue over Trump rollback of Obama water rules | GOP climate plan faces pushback from right | Bezos launches B climate initiative GOP climate plan faces pushback — from Republicans Coalition plan seeks to cut carbon emissions in half by 2035 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.