He says he has “just hung up the phone” with Donald Trump and that the president asked him to “say hello.” He delivers this message with a slight chuckle that has a certain, almost subversive quality to it. Watch Pence give enough speeches, and you’ll notice that this often happens when he’s in front of a friendly crowd. He’ll be witnessing to evangelicals at a mega-church, or addressing conservative supporters at a rally, and when the moment comes for him to pass along the president’s well-wishes, the words are invariably accompanied by an amused little chuckle that prompts knowing laughter from the attendees. It’s almost as if, in that brief, barely perceptible moment, Pence is sending a message to those with ears to hear— that he recognizes the absurdity of his situation; that he knows just what sort of man he’s working for; that while things may look bad now, there is a grand purpose at work here, a plan that will manifest itself in due time. Let not your hearts be troubled, he seems to be saying. I’ve got this. …Pence’s presence in the White House has been a boon for the religious right. Evangelical leaders across the country point to his record on abortion and religious freedom and liken him to a prophet restoring conservative Christianity to its rightful place at the center of American life. “Mike Pence is the 24-karat-gold model of what we want in an evangelical politician,” Richard Land, the president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary and one of Trump’s faith advisers, told me. “I don’t know anyone who’s more consistent in bringing his evangelical-Christian worldview to public policy.”
Vice President Pence praised former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court, as a “tireless champion of … the rule of law” during an event in Arizona on Tuesday.Pence said at the tax event that he was “honored” by the former sheriff’s attendance, and called Arpaio a “great friend of this president and tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law,” to cheers from the crowd.
Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt last summer for willfully violating a federal court order. Specifically, he was convicted of violating an order that he cease arresting and detaining people for whom there was no plausible criminal charge — i.e., the court asked him, pretty please, to stop detaining Mexicans for publicity purposes. Arpaio says he was arresting illegal immigrants, and he may well have been, but it is not a criminal offense simply to be illegally present in the United States. (That is a civil matter.) Until such a time as Congress passes a law making such presence a crime (and delegates enforcement of that federal statute to the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz.), arresting people under color of law for that non-crime isn’t law enforcement — it’s lawlessness.But Sheriff Joe has a thing for arresting people who haven’t committed any crime. He arrested a Republican critic — the county supervisor — on trumped-up charges in 2008 and ended up handing over $3.5 million of taxpayers’ money in a wrongful-arrest settlement. He tried to bully the mayor of Phoenix in much the same way, demanding phone logs and other records as part of a nonsensical “investigation” designed to silence a critic. In another spectacular abuse of power, Arpaio teamed up with a friendly county attorney and filed a federal lawsuit seeking the federal prosecution of several judges and lawyers — his political enemies — under the RICO organized-crime statute. Arpaio, being Arpaio, held a press conference announcing the investigation, which the federal courts immediately threw out as “patently frivolous.” Millions more taxpayers’ dollars were paid out in settlements.