Updated Saturday 11:10 a.m. ET
President Trump has pardoned a former Navy sailor who pleaded guilty to illegally retaining photographs he had taken of classified areas inside a nuclear submarine.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the pardon for Kristian Saucier on Friday.
Then on Saturday morning Trump tweeted kudos to Saucier, “Congratulations to Kristian Saucier, a man who has served proudly in the Navy, on your newly found Freedom. Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!”
Congratulations to Kristian Saucier, a man who has served proudly in the Navy, on your newly found Freedom. Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!
Trump frequently referenced Saucier’s case during the 2016 campaign as an example of what he said was an individual punished for a lesser offense than what his rival, Hillary Clinton, did with classified information on her private email server when she was secretary of state.
Saucier’s lawyers also cited Clinton’s case in an attempt to receive leniency in sentencing proceedings, which took place during the height of the campaign. Prosecutors rejected the comparison for several reasons, including the fact that Saucier acknowledged wrongdoing.
Saucier served as a machinist’s mate on the USS Alexandria, a nuclear attack submarine, from 2007 to 2012. According to court documents, he used his personal cellphone to take six photos of classified areas, instruments and equipment in the sub — including the nuclear reactor — in 2009.
After being interviewed by the FBI in 2012, Saucier destroyed a computer, camera and memory card. Investigators later found pieces of a laptop computer stashed in the woods on a property owned by a relative of Saucier’s.
Federal prosecutors charged Saucier in 2015 with the illegal retention of defense information. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months in prison. He was released in September 2017.
At the White House on Friday, Sanders said Saucier was 22 when he committed the offenses and noted that he has served out his sentence. During his time in the service, she said, he regularly mentored younger sailors and was an instructor to new recruits.
“The sentencing judge found that Mr. Saucier’s offense stands in contrast to his commendable military service,” she said. “The president is appreciative of Mr. Saucier’s service to the country.”
This is Trump’s second pardon as president. His first was granted to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt.