Leaders on the House Natural Resources Committee are investigating a potential circumstance of bribery involving full pardons issued by then-President Trump in 2018 for a father-and-son duo in Oregon who were convicted of arson and hit with multi-year prison sentences.
Chair Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a new letter for a series of documents potentially relevant to the situation, including communications touching on the pardoned duo between a series of individuals involved in a real estate developer’s company and the department or involving the department and a Trump-aligned super PAC, where that developer, Mike Ingram, sent a $10,000 donation in the days before Trump issued his pardons for the Hammonds.
As it was 2018, Trump himself wasn’t running for anything that year, and even more conclusively, a timeline that Grijalva and Porter shared outlines how an ally to Trump in Congress made the first public indication a pardon for the Hammonds was under consideration after an assistant to Ingram was in touch with an official at the Department of the Interior — seemingly strongly suggesting the department was paying attention to what the pro-Trump developer’s team had to say. The Congressional Trump ally, then-Rep. Greg Walden, said he spoke with the then-president about pardons. Further communications could reveal a note about the donation either from Ingram or the political organization that received it.
Ingram was also the subject of a previous investigation by the same committee that outlined how he held a private breakfast meeting with David Bernhardt, who was a high-ranking official in the Interior Department and shortly thereafter directed an official in the Fish and Wildlife Service to reverse his agency’s position about the negative environmental impacts of a long-sought development helmed by Ingram. Around this same time, Ingram and a dozen (mostly) associates of his, all from Arizona, made large donations to another Trump fundraising group, the Trump Victory Fund, suggesting an either pre-arranged or attempt at establishing a bribery deal. It was the only time during the entire 2017-2018 election cycle that more than three people from Arizona donated more than $2,700 to the Trump fund on the same day — so the additional donations weren’t routine either. The total reached nearly a quarter of a million bucks.
The panel referred the matter to the Justice Department for further investigation, although the department hasn’t confirmed its chosen course of action. Grijalva and Porter are seeking their requested documents from Haaland by the middle of this month, weeks before control of the House is scheduled to flip to Republicans.