Letters to Pres. Trump, AG Barr, argue that current DOJ regulations interfere with president’s pardon powers
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter has renewed his call for a presidential pardon for former U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna in recent letters sent to President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr.
Last year, Attorney General Hunter asked President Trump to grant Behenna a pardon. The Department of Justice (DOJ) subsequently ruled that Behenna was ineligible to even apply for a pardon under its regulations and that he did not merit a waiver.
In the letters, Attorney General Hunter argues that current DOJ regulations wrongly interfere with the president’s broad pardon power under the U.S. Constitution by banning significant numbers of eligible persons, including Behenna, from applying for a pardon.
The DOJ bars all individuals currently incarcerated from applying for a pardon, as well as those who have been released in the last five years and those who are on parole, probation, or supervised release. Behenna will remain on parole until 2024.
Despite the regulations being advisory only, they are used internally for DOJ personnel to determine which applications get forwarded. The rule also states that petitioners may make a written request for a waiver, but the waiver is rarely granted and only in the most exceptional circumstances. All requests for pardons must go through the DOJ.
“The U.S. Constitution gives the president nearly absolute authority to pardon people from federal crimes,” Attorney General Hunter said. “For DOJ officials to use such strict regulations in determining who can even apply, they are interfering with the president’s prerogative and eliminating the ability for hundreds of thousands of eligible people, like Mr. Behenna, to have their case reviewed. I strongly encourage Attorney General Barr to review and revise the regulations to better align with the president’s authority under the Constitution.
“Likewise, I implore President Trump to review Mr. Behenna’s case and strongly consider granting him a pardon. He courageously served his country in combat in Iraq and he has more than paid for his mistakes and misjudgments in attempting to root out terrorism.”
Behenna was convicted in 2009 of killing a suspected terrorist in Iraq while searching for individuals responsible for an IED attack that took the lives of two men under his command. He was paroled in 2014 after serving five years of a 15-year sentence.
To read the letter to President Trump and Attorney General Barr, click here.