Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Watch | Opinion

Trump considers pardoning Joe Arpaio, and gives racists a reassuring wink

By Radley Balko

August 14, 2017 at 5:26 PM

Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2013 in Phoenix. (Darren Hauck/European Pressphoto Agency)

Well that didn't take long. Just hours after President Trump finally brought himself to denounce neo-Nazis and white supremacists, this happened . . .

President Trump told Fox News he is "seriously considering" issuing a pardon for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted last month of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge's order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.

Trump told the news outlet during a conversation in Bedminster, N.J., that the pardon could come quickly, perhaps in a matter of days. The news outlet reported the conversation on its website Monday.

"I might do it right away, maybe early this week. I am seriously thinking about it," Trump said, according to Fox News. He said Arpaio was a "great American patriot" who had "done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration."

"Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe?" Trump said, according to Fox News. "He has protected people from crimes and saved lives. He doesn't deserve to be treated this way."

No? Let's review Arpaio's history.

This isn't even getting to the countless incidents in which Arpaio has harassed critics, media figures, political opponents and other judges who ruled against him. In 2013 alone, Maricopa County paid out more than $7 million in settlements just to politicians and journalists in Arpaio's crosshairs.

I very seriously doubt Arpaio would ever get jail time. Federal judges aren't known for sending octogenarian ex-cops to prison. But his name and reputation ought to be stained. If any cop deserves that, it's Arpaio.

And so after deploying first delay and then false equivalence, Trump finally did denounce the racists and white supremacists who chanted his name in Charlottesville last weekend. It then took him only a few hours to give those same racists and white supremacists a nod and a reassuring wink. How else should we interpret a possible pardon for the sheriff who ran the most racist department the DOJ has ever investigated?

Don't fret, alt-righters. Trump still has your back.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."

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