On Friday, President Donald Trump granted an official pardon to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a decision that shocked many on both sides of the aisle.
Pardon my disgust, but Arpaio’s reprieve disgraces justice and subverts the very rule of law the president is sworn to uphold.
It appears Trump understood the action’s gross unpopularity. Instead of announcing the pardon a few days earlier during a campaign rally in Phoenix, a portion of the sheriff’s former constituency, he unloaded the bombshell in the dwindling hours of the work week, a time when most people are relatively tuned-out. The remarks directly competed with coverage of Hurricane Harvey, the powerful storm that devastated large swaths of Texan land.
Under Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the president has the nearly unchecked power to “grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States.” The only limit is in cases of impeachment.
The sheer ability to take action, however, does not make such action wise. The mighty power of the presidential pardon should be used only after careful consideration of the worthiness of criminal remittance. To do otherwise is to flout justice.
Arpaio is infamous for his unyielding stance on illegal immigration. The sheriff was tough, no doubt, but his mad crusade to deport border-crossers was much darker than the simple law-and-order mantra his supporters profess to uphold. His unseemly deeds often straddled, and even crossed, the line between strict enforcement and outright discrimination.
In July, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt for refusing to uphold the constitutional rights of his county’s Latino citizens — legal citizens, mind you, not merely unlicensed immigrants. Had the pardon not occurred, Arpaio would have been sentenced in October.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, a long-time Trump critic currently battling cancer, took a stand in a statement released over the weekend.
“The president has the authority to make this pardon,” it read, “but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”
That comes from a member of the president’s own party. The condemnation was even more blistering on the left.
If Trump really stood for law and order, he would have allowed Arpaio’s sentencing by a proper judicial body. However, our politically flippant president let him ride off into the sunset, virtually scott-free.
Arpaio’s victims were never as lucky.