Last week we learned that President Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Sheriff Arpaio is certainly a colorful character. He was sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County from 1993 to 2017. While in office he became a fierce critic of the undocumented. He encouraged his officers to “profile” Latinos, arguing that checking their legal status protected the people of Maricopa county.
In 2011 the Department of Justice found that the Sheriff’s office created “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos.” In 2012 the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit. The next year a federal court found that Sheriff Arpaio violated the Constitutional rights of Latinos and created a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos. Sheriff Arpaio was ordered to stop profiling Latinos.
He didn’t. In 2016 the same court ordered Sheriff Arpaio be prosecuted for contempt of court. He was convicted last month and was awaiting sentencing.
That is, until last week when President Trump pardoned him. Mr. Trump has the power to do this. In Article II, Section 2 states that the President has “the Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences [sic] against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
No one argues the ability of Mr. Trump to do this, but we do argue his wisdom. Sheriff Arpaio clearly acted in contempt of federal court and since he was pardoned before sentencing he will forever avoid punishment for his contempt.
For his part, Mr. Trump fell on back on a word that he often uses and the rest of us find juvenile: “unfair.” He claimed that Mr. Arpaio was prosecuted for “doing his job.”
In our history we’ve seen other controversial pardons. In 1974 President Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon shortly after President Nixon’s resignation. Nixon resigned because he faced impeachment for his role in covering up the 1972 break in at the Watergate. Mr. Ford’s pardon created a great deal of anger (and many feel it cost him re-election in 1976) but he felt our nation would suffer greatly from a public trial of a former President. Frankly, I agreed with him then and agree with him now.
But the pardon of Mr. Arpaio carries none of the concern for our nation or our future. This pardon clearly signals that our current President uses his power not for patriotic reasons, but to settle scores. Mr. Arpaio’s fondness for Mr. Trump is well known.
Only 1166 days left until the next election.