The former Navy sailor pardoned by President Trump is happy to have his life back — but hopes his story will expose the hypocrisy he sees at the Justice Department.
Trump on Saturday congratulated Kristian Saucier, telling him to “go out and have the life you deserve.”
The White House announced a day earlier that Trump had granted clemency to the 31-year-old, who served a year in federal prison after taking photos of a classified area inside a nuclear submarine.
“It gives me back my good name and gives me a chance to move forward,” Saucier told the Daily News. “It’s an amazing thing.”
He served house arrest for six months after being jailed, confined to the Arlington, Vt., home he shares with his wife, 13-year-old step-daughter and 2-year-old daughter.
“It’s been hard, we’re still struggling,” he said. “Financially, it’s been difficult.”
Saucier lost his military benefits with his discharge, he and his wife don’t have health insurance and the family lives in constant fear of foreclosure.
Work has come in the form of a garbage hauling company, a gig he’s glad to have.
“When I got out, no one wanted to hire me once they heard I had a felony conviction,” he said. “I know I made a mistake. I was young when I took the pictures, and it shouldn’t have happened.”
Saucier said he had a clear record, a stellar Navy career and his whole life ahead of him when he suddenly found himself in a room in 2012 with a pair of FBI agents asking about photos he took three years earlier.
Others had done the same, he said, and there was no intent beyond having the pictures as keepsakes and showing his family the work he was doing in the Navy, he claims.
He panicked — partially a product of PTSD, he said — and destroyed a computer, camera and memory card.
Saucier’s trial played out during the height of the 2016 election and his attorneys compared his offense to Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information while serving as secretary of state.
The FBI declined to charge Clinton after an investigation into her use of a private email server. But Saucier pleaded guilty to illegally retaining defense information.
Trump picked up on the parallels, which federal prosecutors argued were nebulous, and frequently compared the two cases as evidence of inequality within the Department of Justice — a sentiment Saucier shares.
During the second presidential debate, Trump referred to the case as he ripped into his Democratic opponent.
“People have been — their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done,” he told Clinton.
Saucier’s attorney, Ronald Daigle Jr., said using the media to keep his client’s plight on Trump’s mind was crucial to getting the pardon.
“This is definitely an unconventional pardon,” Daigle told The News. “We had to appeal directly to the President.”
Last week, Saucier was interviewed on “Fox & Friends,” one of the Trump’s favorite cable news programs.
A typical pardon must go through a lengthy Justice Department review. Under DOJ guidelines, people are not encouraged to apply for clemency until five years after their conviction or sentencing.
Trump’s one other pardon, granted to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, also defied convention.
Arpaio, 85, faced a sentencing for a criminal contempt conviction for failing to follow a federal court order in a racial profiling case. Presidents commonly wait until the end of a term to grant pardons.
Saucier said he was glad that Trump had the “moral fortitude to follow through” on his interest in the case.
“It shows he’s not willing to stand for injustice,” he said. “I hope this sheds light on the fact that there’s a double standard. They gave (Clinton) a pass and that should upset all Americans.” ___
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