Dershowitz commends Trump for ‘long overdue’ commutation of Sholom Rubashkin

President Donald Trump’s commuted the sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, the former Chief Executive of Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, on Wednesday, citing concerns about the “excessive” 27-year sentence “in light of its disparity with sentences imposed for similar crimes.”

“The President’s review of Mr. Rubashkin’s case and commutation decision were based on expressions of support from Members of Congress and a broad cross-section of the legal community,” the White House said in a news release.

Professor Alan Dershowitz told Jewish Insider he wrote a personal letter to the President following the decision, thanking him for the commutation of Rubashkin. “I told him what the Talmud says, ‘He who saves a single human life it is as if he has saved the entire world,’ and he has saved many human lives by doing this. He saved the life of Sholom Rubashkin and of members of his family who were having a terrible time without him.”

“It’s long overdue Tzedek (justice), and I think the President should be commended for finally doing what others were supposed to do. He has served far too long. This is the right result, and I am very happy he did it.”

Dershowitz said he advocated for Rubashkin’s release in his conversations with President Trump. “I had the opportunity to lay out my case for commutation to the President, particularly the business aspect of it,” he said, adding that Trump was sensitive to the case being a businessman and understanding that “the government manipulated the price of the company down in order to raise the sentence.”

The President’s decision to commute Rubashkin’s sentence sparked a spontaneous outburst of celebrations across the Orthodox Jewish community in New York. Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) called it a “real Hanukkah miracle.” Celebrations were held in Monsey, Upstate New York [PicVideo], in Borough Park, Brooklyn [PicVideo], and at Chabad HQ on 770 Eastern Parkway [PicVideo] • Trump flags were being waved outside 770 [PicPicVideo]  

Close to midnight, Rubashkin arrived to greet his parents at their home in Borough Park. Thousands gathered outside to welcome him. JI’s Jacob Kornbluh was on the scene. Watch a replay of his live broadcast [Periscope

Question on the mind of some JI readers: To what extent was the commutation — and the recent announcement on Jerusalem — an isolated decision and coincidental timing vs. part of a larger grand strategy? And, if you believe the President has transactional tendencies, could there be a cost attached to Trump’s generosity as some experts — including Dennis Ross — floated after the Jerusalem move? The Jewish leaders who replied last night on-the-record were not buying the speculation. 

Dershowitz: “They are not favors. What he did on Jerusalem was designed to undo what Barack Obama had done, namely to change the status quo. Obama changed the status quo by allowing the UN resolution (UNSC 2334) to go through that declared the Kotel to be illegally occupied territory. So it wasn’t a favor to anybody. It was the right thing to do. And this (Rubashkin commutation) was done because it is just, it was the right thing to do.”

Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), and a supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2016, tells us… “I don’t believe that this is an ‘Orthodox Jewish’ political strategy. Quite frankly, Trump is already popular with this constituency. The fact is that both of these decisions (Jerusalem and Rubashkin) were correct based on the objective facts. I think this speaks more to Orthodox Jews having access to the President and being able to make their case directly to him. That’s the hardest part – just getting the President to hear you out.”

Dov Zakheim:  “The Orthodox Jewish community already supports him. In fact, it’s the only part of the Jewish community in America that supports him. Maybe this is his way of saying thank you, that’s possible. But the fact of the matter is, on its merits, he did the right thing. Frankly, Obama should have done it before he left office. In this case, the President was simply righting a wrong. Rubashkin should have been convicted, he should have gone to jail, but you would have thought eight years in jail was enough. And, frankly, you would have thought seven years in jail was enough. Trump did the right thing, and Obama did the wrong thing.”

Abe Foxman: “The standard should always be whether it was merited on the facts and circumstances and not on the politics of it. I recall the prosecution may have been overzealous and therefore the sentence may have been overly harsh. If this is accurate, then a commutation would be welcome and appropriate. I don’t believe it should result in a due bill from the Jewish community. A respectful thank you should be sufficient if justice was delivered or repaired.”

David Lobl‏: “If you think that POTUS pardoned Rubashkin to pander to vast swaths of the Orthodox Community after the Jerusalem announcement- you don’t get orthodox politics.” [Twitter]

Jeff Ballabon emails us from Jerusalem: “The President is a man of his word and a man of honor. Instead of looking over his shoulder at what his critics will say – and they will always say something – he is showing America and the world what it means to be a leader and they are getting the message. I’m also proud that the Orthodox community overall saw past the outrageous attacks on Donald Trump and voted overwhelmingly for him. I know it’s been Chanuka, but I keep thinking of Purim: ‘LaYehudim Hoiso Orah V’simcha V’sosson V’ikor.’”

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