Trump: I Freed the Sheriff
“I freed the sheriff, ‘cause I want to hit the judges hard”
(with apologies to the late, great Bob Marley)
There’s our suggestion for a theme song for Donald Trump as he continues Campaign 2017, rocketing from one raucous rally to another.
You might think that Trump would tone down his “nationalist” message, in response to the outcry that followed his refusal to condemn white supremacists’ violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump did give one dignified--though baffling--speech in announcing his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.
But Trump promptly reverted to form, doubling down on his stance about white supremacists and refusing to admit that he’d made any mistakes, when he spoke in Phoenix last week. The president continued to show what he would follow his base instincts and stir up the darker emotions and fears of his followers.
To keep his base happy, Trump took several shocking steps this week:
He threatened to force a government shutdown, in a Mafia-style maneuver to force Congress to appropriate $1.6 billlion—yes, just $1.6 billion—to construct The Wall.
He issued an executive order banning transgender Americans from joining the military…even though military leaders had advised him that transgender soldiers were not creating any operational problems. (keep or cut?)
He pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Trump said that Arpaio had been convicted “for doing his job”. But Arpaio was convicted because he defied court orders to stop using abusive police tactics…openly, even blatantly, for several years.
Arpaio, one of the more loathsome figures on the American political scene, made his reputation by using ruthless, heavy-handed tactics against Hispanics that violated their constitutional rights. His no-holds barred approach made Arpaio a highly popular figure in Arizona for several years. Arpaio’s deputies conducted “sweeps”, picking up Hispanics whose only “crime” was that they didn’t have proper identification.
Arpaio also used abused prisoners awaiting trial, forcing them to wear pink underwear and serving them disgusting food. His goal was to humiliate them…even if they had not been convicted of any crime…to encourage them to leave Arizona.
A federal judge ruled in 2011 that Arpaio had to stop using such tactics. The judge found that Arpaio’s officers often arrested Hispanics without any evidence of criminal activity; it was racial profiling.
Arpaio refused to comply with the order, in a very public way. Finally, in 2017 (check), another federal judge found that Arpaio was guilty of criminal contempt of court, because of his brazen defiance. This is the first pardon that Trump has issued; it is an abuse of power and a rank appeal to his “base”. By exonerating Arpaio, Trump is:
Giving a green light to other police officers to use harsh, illegal tactics against Hispanics
Undermining the principle of civilian control over the police….and the rule of law
Launching a direct assault on the federal judiciary ….the third branch of our government
As President, Trump swore an oath to defend the Constitution…not to protect rogue police officers who violate its provisions and defy court orders. By pardoning Arpaio, Trump is disparaging the authority of federal courts to enforce the laws of our land and the Constitution. He has already attacked individual judges; now he is attacking the courts’ role under the Constitution. Trump’s pardon of Arpaio is part of a disturbing pattern of tolerating, even encouraging, bad behavior by police officers. Trump recently suggested during a speech at a police convention that officers allow prisoners to hit their heads when they are being pushed into a police car. That remark triggered angry protests from many police chiefs….but not Joe Arpaio.
Trump may also be testing the limits of his power to issue pardons, by gauging the public reaction to this egregious move. After all, if he can get away with this one, that could be very good news for Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and other concerned citizens.
The Wall Street Democrat