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

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.

  • In 2011, the Justice Department concluded that Arpaio’s deputies had engaged in the worst pattern of racial profiling that the DOJ had ever investigated.
  • That report found that Arpaio’s deputies routinely put Spanish-speaking prisoners in solitary confinement as punishment for their inability to speak English.
  • It found that 1 in 5 traffic stops during Arpaio’s immigration sweep’s involved Fourth Amendment violations.
  • It found that Latinos were four to nine times more likely to be pulled over than non-Latinos.
  • It found that Arpaio’s deputies harassed citizens and non-citizens alike based solely on the color of their skin or for speaking Spanish.
  • A 2012 Justice Department report found that “MCSO jail employees frequently refer to Latinos as ‘wetbacks,’ ‘Mexican bitches,’ and ‘stupid Mexicans.’ MCSO supervisors involved in immigration enforcement have expressed anti-Latino bias, in one instance widely distributing an email that included a photograph of a Chihuahua dog dressed in swimming gear with the caption ‘A Rare Photo of a Mexican Navy Seal.’ MCSO and Arpaio’s words and actions set the tone and create a culture of bias that contributes to unlawful actions.
  • Accusations that Arpaio’s deputies continued to harass Latinos were affirmed by another federal judge in 2013. Arpaio then launched an investigation of that judge.
  • That report also found that Arpaio was spending so much time harassing Latinos that his department waneglecting violent crime.
  • Among the crimes Arpaio’s office is alleged to have let languish: sex crimes, particularly those in which the victims were Latino or undocumented immigrants.
  • Consistent with Trump’s longtime racist obsession, back in 2012, Arpaio launched an “investigation” into Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Arpaio claimed he had proof that the document was “definitely fraudulent.”
  • On multiple occasions, federal judges have found that Arpaio’s jails are unconstitutionally inhumane, most notably when it comes to diet, health care and mental health. The vast, vast majority of the people in Arpaio’s jails are being held on suspected immigration violations.
  • Arpaio also re-instituted chain gangs, including for women and juveniles.
  • Arpaio in fact once boasted that his jails were akin to a “concentration camp.”

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.