Trump pardons man convicted of felony as campaign stunt at GOP convention


But Trump and his fellow Republicans have fought against rights for others convicted of felonies.

Donald Trump used his power to grant pardons on Tuesday for political purposes, giving one to a supporter during the Republican National Convention. But he and many others in his party have fought against restoring the rights of most other people convicted of felonies who have served their time.

Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, who served five years in prison for bank robbery, just before Ponder spoke at the convention.

Trump has used pardons and commutations for political purposes before. He granted a full pardon to disgraced former Sheriff Joe Arpaio — a prominent Trump backer — in August 2017. He pardoned another backer, conservative activist Dinesh D'Souza in May 2018.

After lobbying by Kim Kardashian West, Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who had been convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. Johnson too will speak at the convention on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Miles Taylor, who served as Homeland Security chief of staff under Trump, alleged that Trump offered pardons to any immigration officials who broke the law to "implement his immigration policies."

But while Trump has made a big show of helping these few backers, he and many other Republicans have worked to make it harder for less-connected people to regain their rights after completing their sentences.

In Florida, voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 restoring voting rights to those convicted of most felonies after they complete their sentences. But the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis quickly enacted a 2019 law undermining it, requiring an estimated 774,000 Floridians to pay all outstanding legal fees and restitution before they regain their voting rights.

In Iowa, the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds similarly attached strict restitution requirements to a voting-rights restoration effort earlier this year.

In December, Georgia's Republican legislative majority opted to keep in place that state's ban on voting by anyone convicted of a felony until their sentences are completed fully.

In 2016, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, signed an executive order restoring voting rights to those convicted of felonies who had completed their sentences. State Republicans denounced the order and successfully challenged it in court.

Among those attacking the effort in Virginia was Donald Trump.

"Hillary Clinton is banking on her friend Terry McAuliffe on getting thousands of violent felons to the voting booths in effort to cancel out the votes of both law enforcement and crime victims," Trump said at a campaign rally in August 2016. "They are letting people vote in your Virginia election that should not be allowed to vote. Sad. So Sad."

The White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.