IOWA CITY, Iowa – A federal judge in Iowa who has warned against political corruption is ridiculing President Donald Trump’s pardons, including those issued to convicted Republican campaign operatives and former members of Congress.
“It’s not surprising that a criminal like Trump pardons other criminals,” senior U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt of the Southern District of Iowa told The Associated Press in a brief phone interview Monday. In a bit of humor, he said: “But apparently to get a pardon, one has to be either a Republican, a convicted child murderer or a turkey.”
Pratt was referring to pardons Trump granted to his former campaign aides convicted during the special counsel's Russia inquiry, former GOP congressmen who committed crimes, and security contractors convicted of killing innocent civilians in Iraq. Trump also pardons turkeys — this year two from Iowa — annually before Thanksgiving.
Pratt has been on the bench since his appointment by President Bill Clinton in 1997. He has had a reduced caseload since 2012, when he assumed senior status.
Pratt made the remarks when asked for comment on pardons granted to two former top aides for Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, who were convicted in a corruption scheme related to the Iowa caucuses.
He noted that the framers of the U.S. Constitution sought to stop U.S. officials from “enriching themselves” while in office by banning gifts and payments from foreign powers. Ongoing lawsuits have accused Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency through his luxury Washington hotel. A White House spokesman declined comment on Pratt’s remarks.
Trump last week pardoned Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton and campaign manager John Tate, who were convicted at trial of concealing $73,000 in payments that went to state Sen. Kent Sorenson in exchange for Sorenson’s endorsement of Paul. Benton and Tate were sentenced to six months of home confinement and probation.
Sorenson was an up-and-coming conservative, and he made news when he defected as Michele Bachmann’s campaign chairman to endorse Paul days before the 2012 caucuses. Paul’s campaign and Sorenson denied that any money would change hands. Only later did the public learn that Paul’s campaign secretly paid Sorenson, routing the money through a film production company as “audio/visual expenses” to conceal its true nature on disclosure reports.