President Trump sent a clear message Friday by pardoning a former Navy sailor who was convicted in 2016 and sentenced to a year in prison for taking pictures in a classified area of a Navy submarine. That message: People should not have their lives "destroyed" for crimes that are "nothing by comparison" to Hillary Clinton's crimes.
During the campaign, Trump had drawn comparisons between the sailor — Kristian Saucier (shown) — and Hillary Clinton, saying in a campaign speech in November 2016, “He wanted to take a couple of pictures. They put him in jail for a year.” Trump added, “He did nothing by comparison to what she’s done.”
During the second presidential debate on October 9, 2016, Trump made an even more pointed comparison, telling Clinton, “People have been — their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done.” While Trump has been known to exaggerate, in this case — if his reference was to Saucier — he understated the comparison.
In 2009, Saucier, who was 22 at the time, was stationed aboard the USS Alexandria. While in classified areas of the submarine, he used his mobile phone to take six photographs. There is no evidence that he intended to share those with enemies of the United States or that anything he did actually jeopardize national security. As Trump said, Saucier just wanted the pictures for himself. While his actions certainly demonstrate a lack of judgment, his lawyers argued during his trial that his crime was no different than Clinton’s use of an unauthorized, unsecured, private e-mail server and account to send classified communications.
For Trump’s “one-fifth” comparison to be accurate, Clinton would have needed to have stored only 30 classified communications on her home-brew server without ever sending any of them over an unsecured network. It is known for certain that Clinton actually sent and/or received at least 2,079 classified e-mails over that server during her tenure as secretary of state. That is an average of almost 10 per week. That's a lot of top-secret data leakage for the woman who repeatedly claimed she “never sent or received any e-mail that was deemed classified, that was marked classified." If Saucier had taken 416 photographs and texted or e-mailed them to others, Trump’s “one-fifth” comparison would have been spot on.
Instead, Clinton did far worse every week she was secretary of state than Saucier ever did.
But what of Trump’s claim that people’s “lives have been destroyed” for committing lesser crimes than those for which Hillary Clinton has never even been charged?
On that point, Trump is perfectly accurate. Saucier’s case is a great example of that.
The Washington Examiner reported that Saucier “learned the news [of the pardon] while driving a garbage truck, the only job he could find with a felony conviction.” Also:
Saucier told the Washington Examiner earlier this year that a felony conviction made it hard to find work. He found employment as a garbage man to support his family. While in prison, the family's cars were repossessed and his home is in foreclosure.
“We’re struggling,” Saucier said in January, describing frequent calls from credit card debt collectors and an electricity bill payment plan. “No one will hire me because I’m a felon.... All the skills I worked so hard for in the military are useless.”
That’s a fair picture of a man who had his life destroyed for doing far less than Clinton, who was able to go on to run for president and has never been charged. Saucier had already completed his prison sentence and had another several months of being required to wear a monitoring device, according to the terms of his conviction. With the pardon, he will be able to lose the ankle bracelet and will no longer be considered a former felon. His record is clean and — having more than paid for his crime — he can finally get on with his life. Perhaps a new career — using the skills he learned in the Navy — is in his near future.
President Trump used the occasion of the pardon to take to his favorite social media platform Saturday morning, tweeting:
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!
While Saucier is getting on with his life, there are indications that Clinton and her accomplices may yet have to answer for their many crimes. Because Trump’s comparisons between Saucier and Clinton include calls for her to be brought to justice. In a tweet on January 2, he said:
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
While many consider Trump’s pardon of Saucier to be the keeping of an implied campaign promise, many are waiting for him to keep the second part of that promise. In the segment of the second presidential debate that Trump compared Clinton’s crimes to those of people such as Saucier, Trump said that when he was elected, he would “instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation” because “after getting the subpoena you delete 33,000 e-mails and then you acid wash them or bleach them, as you would say — a very expensive process.” He went on to say, “So we’re going to get a special prosecutor and we’re going to look into it. Because you know what, people have been — their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you have done.” Trump made it clear that the result would be that Clinton “would be in jail.” Friday’s pardon may be an indication that the president is moving in that direction.
Photos: Hillary Clinton, Kristian Saucier, and President Trump