Let’s talk about presidential pardons. Even before this debacle with Arpaio, there was a supposed rumor coming out of the White House stating that the President was exploring options on how pardoning himself would work. Fast forward a few months, and you get President Trump’s first official pardon of Sheriff Arpaio. So who is this Sheriff Arpaio and how did he even get on Donald Trump’s radar?
Joe Arpaio was elected Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona in 1993 and quickly developed a reputation of abusing his power to promote the mistreatment of inmates. One example is Tent City, an extension of the county jail which Arpaio described as a “concentration camp”, where prisoners were forced to sleep outside in blistering heats that would reach up to 145 degrees. While his jails have been known for overcrowding and perpetuating a culture of cruelty, his work ethic was questioned when 400 sex crimes reported to Arpaio’s office were inadequately investigated or not investigated at all. Many of the victims in these cases were children and undocumented immigrants.
On the political side, Arpaio was a strong public champion of Trump’s “birther” lie which claimed that former President Barack Obama was not a U.S. Citizen and was born in Kenya. It wasn’t long before Arpaio jumped on the Trump train and endorsed him as someone who believed in the same ideals.
Abuse of power, misuse of funds, & violating election law were just SOME of the many allegations thrown at Arpaio during his tenure as Sheriff.
It may surprise you that everything you read above is NOT what Arpaio got a pardon for. It was for pure racism.
After being warned in 2011 to stop doing so, Arpaio was found guilty and held in contempt by the Federal Court in Arizona for ordering his officers to purposefully stop and detain Latino motorists, regardless of cause to check their immigration status. Sheriff Arpaio was routinely violating an American’s constitutional rights.
Here’s why Donald Trump’s pardon of Arpaio is a slap in the face to the “checks and balances” of the justice system. The 3 branches of government are supposed to be equal, and the court convicting someone of contempt is their strongest way to display their power. Now, when the President of the United States decides to pardon someone who’s been convicted of blatant racism, not only does it seem like the President is accepting of the Sheriff’s racist indiscretions, it also seems like he has no respect for the law nor the power of the courts. Most importantly though, this shows that the courts are truly powerless if the President can choose to pardon whomever he likes.
With the Russian investigation underway and Mueller’s probe only heating up, it seems like the President pardoned Arpaio not only to reward his loyalty, but to send a message to his allies. The message is that regardless of what Mueller finds, and regardless of the charges that are brought, Donald Trump loyalists can and will be pardoned in the end. His message is that the courts don’t have any power.
Arpaio hadn't even been sentenced yet, and at most his sentence would have carried 6 months in prison. Donald Trump didn't have to waste a pardon on him, but did so purely for the reason of showing how truly “powerless” he believes the courts are if he can simply pardon someone for any crime they commit.
We are at turning point in this country, which is filled with people of color who are consistently led to believe that their lives don’t matter to the President. And at this moment, in these circumstances, instead of giving hope to those who so desperately seek it, he has decided to protect, defend, and praise a man who deserves nothing more than time served in a jail cell.