Steven Van Zandt Tried To Get Trump To Release Leonard Peltier From Prison

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On Monday, for the 45th time, Leonard Peltier celebrated his day successful a national prison.

The Native American rights activist, present 78, has spent astir of his beingness down bars. He was convicted by the U.S. authorities of aiding and abetting successful the execution of 2 FBI agents during a 1975 shootout connected Pine Ridge Indian Reservation successful South Dakota.

There are so galore problems with Peltier’s imprisonment that it’s hard to cognize wherever to begin. There was nary grounds that helium committed a crime. The FBI threatened and coerced witnesses into lying during his trial. The prosecutors hid exculpatory evidence. His 2 co-defendants were acquitted based connected self-defense. A juror admitted she was biased against Native Americans connected the 2nd time of the proceedings but was allowed to enactment connected anyway.

In the decades since, immoderate of the aforesaid U.S. authorities officials who helped enactment Peltier successful situation successful the archetypal spot ― including a national justice and a U.S. attorney ― person admitted however flawed his proceedings and attraction person been and person pleaded for his clemency. His prolonged imprisonment has sparked outcry from national lawmakers, leaders successful Indigenous communities, celebrities and planetary quality rights leaders, including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Coretta Scott King and Amnesty International USA.

As precocious arsenic July, United Nations ineligible experts took the bonzer measurement of calling connected President Joe Biden to merchandise him immediately.

So wherefore is Peltier inactive successful prison? Because the FBI continues to reason releasing him, leaning connected arguments that are wildly outdated, misleading oregon flat-out wrong. To many, Peltier is present simply America’s longest-serving governmental prisoner.

In anticipation of Peltier’s birthday, HuffPost past week talked to 1 of his astir disposable and dedicated advocates: Steven Van Zandt. Most radical cognize Van Zandt arsenic Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, a mobster histrion connected “The Sopranos” oregon done his assorted creator accomplishments. But helium has besides been publically calling for Peltier’s state for decades. He wrote a opus astir Peltier, helium regularly talks astir him connected Twitter and, it turns out, Van Zandt thought helium had a existent changeable astatine convincing erstwhile President Donald Trump to assistance him clemency, except… everyone helium was moving with connected Trump’s squad kept going to jail.

Here’s a transcript of our interview, during which Van Zandt urged Biden to merchandise Peltier and said helium antecedently asked Springsteen to besides beryllium an advocator with erstwhile President Barack Obama. Van Zandt besides called connected Biden to clasp the edgy, lasers-shooting-out-of-his-eyes, super-genius ”Dark Brandon” meme that progressives are clamoring for and adjacent offered Biden a code to present to the federation astir wherefore everyone should ballot for Democrats, because, arsenic helium enactment it, ”we’re successful the mediate of a fucking war. A war, OK?”

This interrogation has been edited for brevity.

Hi, Steven. Thanks for making the time.

Yeah, no, for Leonard, we’d bash anything. You know? It’s insane. We’re moving retired of time. I’m similar six, what, 7 presidents into this?

You’ve been pursuing his concern for truthful long, and I’m wondering however this each started for you. Were you pursuing this successful the quality erstwhile the shootout happened?

No, no, I came to it reasonably late, actually. I didn’t larn astir it until 10 years later. I was doing probe for 1 of my records, and it had a Native American theme. I ended up starting a instauration astatine the clip that dealt with thing but Native America. I noticed that the South African apartheid strategy was fundamentally based connected what we did with our Native Americans, and the full homeland argumentation benignant of came from our basal preservation thing.

So that transportation was made, and I started doing tons of probe and we ended up, astatine the time, the Solidarity Foundation ended up with much accusation astir Native America than the [Bureau of Indian Affairs]. [Laughs.] I mean, they utilized to travel to america for information. So, yeah, I started to combat the bully combat for Native America backmost then. I was trying to marque that my adjacent large issue. And, honestly, it was impossible. I did not succeed. [Laughs.] And I realized, this is however we took implicit the state successful the archetypal place. [Laughs.] The aforesaid problems inactive exist, you know?

So it was rather a frustrating mates of years, but I learned a lot. I was spending a batch of clip retired there, astatine Pine Ridge, truthful I learned astir Leonard, and, of course, I was outraged backmost then. I conscionable couldn’t judge however evident this was.

The closest I came [to helping to get Peltier retired of prison], to beryllium honorable with you, was Trump.

What happened?

Well, I started, you know, getting adjacent to assorted people. And they kept going to jail.

The Trump radical you were talking to kept going to jail?

Yeah. And each clip I was conscionable connected the verge of making the move, they spell to jail.

How galore times did that happen?

That happened twice. And different 2 oregon 3 that were, you know, that should beryllium successful jail. [Laughs.] So it was conscionable like, it was conscionable truthful frustrating.

Leonard Peltier's prolonged imprisonment is “arbitrary," and the U.S. authorities  should merchandise  him immediately, United Nations ineligible  experts precocious    wrote.
Leonard Peltier's prolonged imprisonment is “arbitrary," and the U.S. authorities should merchandise him immediately, United Nations ineligible experts precocious wrote.

Associated Press

Do you cognize if, earlier those radical went to jail, that the connection had gotten done to Trump that this was thing that helium should do?

I’ll ne'er beryllium sure. And past we tried to get to his kids and Jared [Kushner] and, I mean, I honestly thought successful a bizarre mode that Trump was our champion shot. I’m definite helium would bash it today, wouldn’t he. [Laughs.] I’m thinking, you know, it’s got to beryllium idiosyncratic not acrophobic of insulting the FBI. I deliberation helium astir apt would not person a occupation with this today. [Laughs.] But adjacent the FBI, I mean, I’ve got friends successful the FBI, and everybody feels the aforesaid mode astir it.

What bash your friends accidental implicit there?

That they’re not going to combat connected his behalf, but they cognize it’s wrong.

Have you had immoderate interaction with Biden’s White House astir Leonard?

You know, I played it astute with Trump due to the fact that I had Leonard connected my caput the full time, and close up until adjacent the extremity I didn’t accidental 1 azygous captious happening astir him, OK? And that was not easy. I truly was like, I’m going to effort and beryllium chill due to the fact that I got bigger things connected my mind.

With Biden, you know, I emotion the man, but I’ve been conscionable sick ever since helium got in. It’s conscionable been truthful frustrating. Every determination he’s made has been the incorrect move. This week he’s yet waking up, and I anticipation helium wakes up. But, you know, I’ve been calling Merrick Garland “Barney Fife” for 2 years. I’ve been precise captious of them because, you know, I’m not huffy astatine the Republicans. They’re each criminals, you cognize what I mean? Criminals bash what criminals do. But wherever are the pugnacious bully guys? Where are the bully guys that are expected to beryllium defending us? And arresting these creeps? It’s conscionable not happening. I’m like, capable with this bipartisanship nonsense.

So yet this week, I americium thrilled, helium yet is warring backmost a small bit.

Do you cognize astir the Dark Brandon memes?

Yeah. Let’s anticipation helium stays. But, I mean, I’ll beryllium happier erstwhile the “semi” portion of the “semi-fascist” goes away.

So you haven’t reached retired to Biden folks astir Leonard.

No, I’ve been precise captious of them. So I person been reluctant to bash that. I’ve been doing it done 3rd parties, of course, constantly. But I don’t truly cognize them. I mean, I talked to [White House main of staff] Ron Klain once. I talked to respective others.

Did you speech to him astir Leonard?

No, it was a wide thing, conscionable trying to get them to aftermath up, you know? Fight this war, you know? What they don’t look to recognize is his support standing is not conscionable astir the economy. That’s portion of it. Unfortunately, helium made the mistake of taking recognition for these inflations, which helium had thing to bash with…. America likes strength, OK? If helium came crossed arsenic beardown arsenic he’s present sounding this week, judge me, his support standing is going to leap up due to the fact that it’s not conscionable astir inflation. If helium explains, archetypal of all, if the archetypal [“Build Back Better”] woody had gone through, the $4 trillion one, determination wouldn’t person been inflation. OK?

It’s a small much analyzable than that. And the information is, if it had passed, due to the fact that of the creep traitors [Sens. Kyrsten] Sinema and [Joe] Manchin, if they had really been existent Democrats and didn’t privation to termination the Democratic Party and termination this administration, and had gone on with it, that would’ve wholly wiped retired the ostentation problem, I’m telling you close now. But instead, helium takes this, “Well, can’t we each get each along” cognition erstwhile we’re successful the mediate of a fucking war. A war, OK?

It is beauteous appalling that immoderate of the atrocious things happening astir present successful plain presumption don’t look to person consequences.

You know, this starts with [special counsel Robert] Mueller. I hatred to accidental it, but that was our past champion hope. Here’s a feline who spent his full life, a morganatic hero, doing thing but work for the state and ends his vocation a sniveling coward ― outsmarted by Rudy Giuliani lasting by a fictitious protocol that does not exist. You can’t indict a sitting president. Where is it written? Show me. It doesn’t exist. And if the feline was going to travel that fictitious protocol, helium shouldn’t person took the gig successful the archetypal place.

And, of course, the Congress doesn’t bash 1 happening astir it. And past DOJ does thing astir it. And present the seven-year happening has passed, the accidental to indict connected that.

What are we waiting for here? You know, Trump is blameworthy of treason successful similar 10 antithetic ways. But possibly they’re getting astute finally.

What is it with Leonard’s concern that has kept you truthful focused connected it for virtually decades? What is down the staying powerfulness there?

I hatred injustice. I hatred injustice, and I hatred bullies. I conscionable can’t tolerate it. Injustice that is this outrageous, he’s present go a awesome of the wide injustice against Native Americans since the beginning. He’s virtually our home governmental prisoner, you know? I admit america getting prisoners retired of different places.

You mean similar Brittney Griner.

Yeah, you know, and I’m each for that obviously. I thought that should’ve happened a batch sooner, to beryllium honest. But this is like, we person 1 of these. We person an implicit home governmental prisoner, and we should beryllium embarrassed astir that. I don’t cognize what it’s going to take. I mean 7 fucking presidents, man. Come on.

"We person  an implicit  home  governmental  prisoner, and we should beryllium  embarrassed astir  that," Steven Van Zandt says of Leonard Peltier. He is pictured with Bruce Springsteen astatine  the 2018 New Jersey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony successful  Asbury Park.
"We person an implicit home governmental prisoner, and we should beryllium embarrassed astir that," Steven Van Zandt says of Leonard Peltier. He is pictured with Bruce Springsteen astatine the 2018 New Jersey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony successful Asbury Park.

Bobby Bank via Getty Images

So if you had 5 minutes unsocial with Biden, what would you say?

I would say, listen, Joe. You privation to tally again? You privation to win? You privation to support the House and Senate? I’ll springiness you a code close present that volition leap your support standing up 10 points immediately.

And here’s the speech: “I person tried with each my bosom to clasp bipartisanship. But unfortunately, the Republicans, they don’t privation to perceive it. They privation to instrumentality distant your Social Security. They privation to instrumentality distant your Medicare. They don’t privation to attraction astir your children successful school. They’re trying to archer you, you know, what books to read, what you tin read, what past you tin know, what women tin bash with their bodies. They’re expected to beryllium representing freedom? How is that freedom? So it’s clip to state warfare connected those who person evidently decided they’re not funny successful being American anymore. They are anti-American. They are un-American, each right? Because we judge successful diversity. We don’t judge successful suppressing the vote, and we don’t judge successful gerrymandering and cheating connected voting, OK? So it’s clip to really look the facts. It’s clip for everybody retired determination to go Democrats and ballot Democrat and let’s get this happening done.”

And past my past 30 seconds would be, “By the way, Joe, let’s get Leonard Peltier retired of jail, OK?” Because capable is enough.

And, by the way, Joe has been, you know, beauteous terrific with getting Native Americans into his Cabinet. I deliberation astir apt much than possibly anybody successful history, I don’t know. So I’d say, OK, present let’s implicit the job. And, by the way, connected the side, I would say, politically it doesn’t hurt. It’s not going to wounded you successful North Dakota and South Dakota and Arizona and places wherever they person a large Native American population, which you could usage connected your side. OK? Let’s bash thing that’s astatine slightest symbolic for them and possibly with existent substance, I would anticipation also.

So that would beryllium similar my wide conversation. I’d beryllium like, it’s clip to state war, man. Show them you’re a fighter. You know? You’re not going to instrumentality this lying down. You’ve been trying and trying and trying, and judge me, everybody’s going to judge that due to the fact that you’ve been similar Mr. Rodney King here, ‘Can’t we each get along,’ portion they bushed the crap of you. You know? All owed respect, you’re pursuing the footsteps of Obama, who I love, I’m sorry, but who brought a weapon to a gunfight. It’s clip to combat back.

Speaking of Obama, did you scope retired to his folks astatine each astir Leonard?

Yes. And I adjacent told Bruce [Springsteen] to notation it to him.

What happened?


Did Bruce notation it to Obama?

I don’t know. I deliberation so.

Does Bruce stock your feelings connected this?

I’ve told him astir it. I haven’t made a large woody retired of it with him, but helium knows what I do. He has his ain things, I don’t privation to enforce connected his own, you know, helium has many, galore things he’s warring for arsenic well.

Anything other you privation to accidental astir Leonard Peltier oregon authorities generally?

I deliberation if the midterms spell the mode they should, you know, if the goddamn DNC and DCCC and DLCC and each these run organizations aftermath the fuck up, OK, and explicate to people, you’ve got to beryllium insane to ballot for Republicans, OK? What’s the substance with you, you know? I mean, they’re taking distant Social Security and Medicare. Isn’t that enough?

We haven’t adjacent talked astir Jan. 6.

Oh fuh-get it. Fuh-get it. This is precisely the problem, OK? What are they doing with these people? They’re giving them fucking parking tickets. I mean, they should person been virtually shot, OK? As they would’ve been had they been Black oregon had they been Muslim. Had they been thing but achromatic supremacists, they would’ve been killed connected the spot. Appropriately so. And what happens? You springiness them parking tickets. And conjecture what? That’s not scaring anybody into instrumentality and order. And this implicit lawlessness, it starts astatine the top. It starts with a feline going connected TV saying, “Overthrow the government,” and he’s playing play each day.

[Fox News’ Sean] Hannity and [Tucker] Carlson, they should beryllium arrested for execution aft what they did with COVID. Trump should beryllium arrested for murder, the biggest wide murderer successful history, murdered a cardinal people. People forgot astir that? He didn’t judge successful science. He didn’t judge his regular briefing. He didn’t work it 30 days successful a enactment saying an exigency is coming, which helium admitted to [Bob] Woodward successful his book. He admitted it to him. A cardinal radical helium murdered, not 1 idiosyncratic connected Fifth Avenue. I mean, what does it take? He admits to obstruction of justness connected NBC, saying “I fired [FBI Director James] Comey due to the fact that helium was investigating me.” Is determination immoderate amended explanation of obstruction of justness than that? I fired him due to the fact that helium was investigating maine for a crime?

This is what’s been going on, and radical spot this. It filters down, and there’s this full speech of violence, violence, violence. I mean, fucking Lindsey Graham. Yeah, Mr. Tough Guy, you know. He’s a existent [laughs], he’s a existent pugnacious one, huh? There’s going to beryllium violence successful the streets? I’m definite you’re going to beryllium close retired there, Lindsey, you know, starring the rioters. [Laughs.] But that changeless speech of violence, you know, this is what fascism is each about. That’s wherefore I anticipation the “semi” portion of Biden’s statement starts to spell away.

Anyway, I’m conscionable venting. Do your thing.

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