WASHINGTON ― A former Navy sailor who pleaded guilty to a felony count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information for snapping photos on a nuclear attack submarine has received a pardon from President Donald Trump — and his attorney says Fox News deserves the credit.
The legal team for Kristian Saucier compared his case to the handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. That grabbed Trump’s interest, and it’s now paid off in the form of a presidential pardon, announced Friday.
Last week, Saucier appeared on “Fox & Friends,” a program that the president records and watches during his morning “executive time.” Trump frequently sends tweets that correspond with segments on the morning show.
Ronald Daigle, a lawyer hired to advocate for Saucier’s pardon, told HuffPost that Fox News played a key role in getting the case on Trump’s radar.
“Absolutely,” Daigle said when asked whether going on Fox News was a big part of their strategy. “They were big supporters of Kris right from the beginning. They supported Kris.”
In 2016, shortly after then-FBI Director James Comey announced the results of the Clinton email investigation, Saucier’s legal team began comparing the submariner’s case to Clinton’s. The Justice Department responded that Saucier was “grasping at highly imaginative and speculative straws,” but the case got Trump’s attention.
Saucier was sentenced to a year behind bars prior to the 2016 election ― a sentence he completed before his pardon. One reason that federal prosecutors likely handled the case the way they did: Saucier destroyed a laptop, a camera and the camera’s memory card shortly after he was interviewed by the FBI. Pieces of a laptop were later found in the woods near a Saucier family home. Prosecutors tend to treat suspects more harshly when they are accused of destroying evidence.
Since the election, Saucier’s team has “sent tons of marketing materials to the White House” and distributed press releases in an effort to “capture the president’s opinion,” Daigle said.
Saucier’s team was aiming for a “political” pardon rather than a pardon that goes through the normal process of the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, Daigle said. Saucier was not yet eligible to go through that lengthy procedure.
“I flipped the process around,” Daigle said. “We were doing something to try to capture the attention of the president. When we put the pardon in, we did a press release for that. When we heard back from the pardon office, we put a press release for that. Every step of the way, we’re trying to do what we can to be on the radar, and hopefully the president will hear us. We think he heard us more than once.”
Daigle believes that Trump simply ordered that a pardon be prepared for his signature and that the Justice Department had very little involvement. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on its role in the pardon.
Daigle’s pardon strategy isn’t going to work for defendants across the board, he said.
“It’s not going to happen in every case. It just happened because we had a set of circumstances that were truly unjust,” said Daigle, referring to his argument that his client was prosecuted where others who committed similar offenses weren’t.
Daigle said he and his client were “very excited” about the news. He said he hoped Saucier, who has a young child, would be able to get his military benefits back.
“This would make a huge difference to his family if he can get his benefits back,” Daigle said. “This is a very talented young man, and he couldn’t find a job coming out for anything, only as a garbage collector. Now he’ll be able to go after these licenses and stuff to have a nice career on the outside.”
Ryan Reilly is HuffPost’s senior justice reporter, covering the Justice Department, federal law enforcement, criminal justice and legal affairs. Have a tip? Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Signal at 202-527-9261.