At times like this it is essential that we remember the most fundamental obligation of the President of the United States. Of his many duties, the most fundamental is to protect the American people by ensuring the guarantee of our constitutional rights. During the Presidential Inauguration Trump took the Oath of Office:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Last night, at 8 p.m., the White House announced in a news release that Trump had officially pardoned Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff who had been found guilty of criminal contempt in July for disregarding a court order in a racial-profiling case. The act of granting the pardon was probably not illegal. It was however an impeachable offense.
Joe Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court as a result of defiance of a Federal Court’s order requiring him to stop violating the Constitutional rights of citizens of the United States of Mexican heritage. Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman wrote after Trump’s belligerent Phoenix rally speechthat pardoning Arapio would represent an “assault on the federal judiciary, the Constitution and the rule of law itself” for which the “remedy is impeachment.” Pardons can be granted for two reasons: either to provide mercy or correct a miscarriage of justice, in an individual case; or on more general grounds based on public policy.
Trump’s pardon of Arpaio does not fit either category very well. Arpaio was convicted for doing the opposite of his job. As a sworn officer of law enforcement, he violated the law and then ignored court orders designed to bring his policies in line with statutory and constitutional mandates. Two different federal judges found, respectively, that the “constitutional violations” committed by Arpaio’s office were “broad in scope, involve its highest ranking command staff, and flow into its management of internal affairs investigations” and that he “willfully violated” directives to correct those violations.
Hence the arguments that Trump’s action — though itself clearly legal — undermines the rule of law. Is it an impeachable offense? That will depend, as Gerald Ford put it early in his political career, on whether “a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be …”
Thus the House of Representatives should consider what Arapio and his subordinates did to violate the Constitutional rights of U.S. Citizens.
Arapio arrested journalists who wrote a story he didn’t like. Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and jailed on misdemeanor charges alleging that they violated the secrecy of a grand jury — which turned out never to have been convened. Let me say that another way. Two reporters were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and jailed, accused of something that never happened! It wasn’t just that they weren’t guilty of the crime alleged. The crime alleged NEVER HAPPENED.
Lacey and Larkin had written a news story detailing what they called a “breathtaking abuse of the constitution” by Arapio. Arapio’s deputies arrested the reporters the night the story was published on charges of violating grand jury secrecy – alleged misdemeanor violations that normally don’t spark nighttime arrests at suspects’ homes. Thus Arapio committed a breathtaking abuse of the Constitution against reporters who reported on his other breathtaking examples of abuse of the Constitutional rights of citizens.
Specific examples of the reported abuse by Arapio included the following widespread, violent and demeaning mistreatment of US citizens of Latino heritage:
- Forcing Women To Sleep In Their Own Menstrual Blood: In Arpaio’s jails, “female Latina LEP prisoners have been denied basic sanitary items.
- Assaulting Pregnant Women: “[A]n MCSO officer stopped a Latina woman — a citizen of the United States and five months pregnant at the time — as she pulled into her driveway. After she exited her car, the officer then insisted that she sit on the hood of the car. When she refused, the officer grabbed her arms, pulled them behind her back, and slammed her, stomach first, into the vehicle three times. He then dragged her to the patrol car and shoved her into the backseat. He left her in the patrol car for approximately 30 minutes without air conditioning. The MCSO officer ultimately issued a citation for failure to provide identification.”
- Stalking Latina Women: “In another instance, during a crime suppression operation, two MCSO officers followed a Latina woman, a citizen of the United States, for a quarter of a mile to her home. The officers did not turn on their emergency lights, but insisted that the woman remain in her car when she attempted to exit the car and enter her home. The officers’ stated reasons for approaching the woman was a non-functioning license plate light. When the woman attempted to enter her home, the officers used force to take her to the ground, kneed her in the back, and handcuffed her. The woman was then taken to an MCSO substation, cited for ‘disorderly conduct,’ and returned home. The disorderly conduct citation was subsequently dismissed.”
- Criminalizing Being A Latino: “During raids, [Arpaio’s Criminal Enforcement Squad] typically seized all Latinos present, whether they were listed on the warrant or not. For example, in one raid CES had a search warrant for 67 people, yet 109 people were detained. Fifty-nine people were arrested and 50 held for several hours before they were released. Those detained, but not on the warrant, were seized because they were Latino and present at the time of the raid. No legal justification existed for their detention.”
- Criminalizing Living Next To The Wrong People: “[D]uring a raid of a house suspected of containing human smugglers and their victims . . . officers went to an adjacent house, which was occupied by a Latino family. The officers entered the adjacent house and searched it, without a warrant and without the residents’ knowing consent. Although they found no evidence of criminal activity, after the search was over, the officers zip-tied the residents, a Latino man, a legal permanent resident of the United States, and his 12-year-old Latino son, a citizen of the United States, and required them to sit on the sidewalk for more than one hour, along with approximately 10 persons who had been seized from the target house, before being released.”
- Ignoring Rape: Because of Arpaio’s obsessive focus on “low-level immigration offenses” his officers failed “to adequately respond to reports of sexual violence, including allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse of girls.”
- Widespread Use Of Racial Slurs: “MCSO personnel responsible for prisoners held in MCSO jails routinely directed racial slurs toward Latino prisoners, including calling Latino prisoners ‘paisas,’ ‘wetbacks,’ ‘Mexican bitches,’ ‘fucking Mexicans,’ and ‘stupid Mexicans.’”
- Widespread Racial Profiling: “[I]n the southwest portion of Maricopa County, Latino drivers were almost four times more likely to be stopped by MCSO officers than non-Latino drivers engaged in similar conduct. . . . In the northwest portion of the County, Latino drivers were over seven times more likely to be stopped by MCSO officers than non-Latino drivers engaged in similar conduct. . . . Most strikingly, in the northeast portion of the County, Latino drivers were nearly nine times more likely to be stopped by MCSO officers than non-Latino drivers engaged in similar conduct.”
- Random, Unlawful Detention Of Latinos: “MCSO officers stopped a car carrying four Latino men, although the car was not violating any traffic laws. The MCSO officers ordered the men out of the car, zip-tied them, and made them sit on the curb for an hour before releasing all of them. The only reason given for the stop was that the men’s car ‘was a little low,’ which is not a criminal or traffic violation.”
Thus the President pardoned a law enforcement official who repeatedly, systematically, and zealously violated the Constitutional rights of U.S. Citizens. To make matters worse, Sheriff Arapio was ordered by two different Federal Court Judges to stop violating the Constitutional Rights of citizens. Arapio , publicly and repeatedly, declared that he was smarter than the Federal District and Appellate Court Judges and defiantly declared that he would not change. Judge Bolton ruled that Mr. Arpaio had willfully violated the 2011 court order. “Not only did Defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” she wrote.
Mr. Trump thus used his constitutional power to block a federal judge’s effort to enforce the Constitution. Legal experts said they found this to be the most troubling aspect of the pardon, given that it excused the lawlessness of an official who had sworn to defend the constitutional structure.
“Arpaio didn’t just violate a law passed by Congress,” Professor Feldman wrote on Bloomberg View. “His actions defied the Constitution itself, the bedrock of the entire system of government.” By saying Mr. Arpaio’s offense was forgivable, Professor Feldman added, Mr. Trump threatens “the very structure on which is right to pardon is based.”
“A presidential pardon is ordinarily a sign of forgiveness,” the instructions say. “A pardon is not a sign of vindication and does not connote or establish innocence. For that reason, when considering the merits of a pardon petition, pardon officials take into account the petitioner’s acceptance of responsibility, remorse and atonement for the offense.” In this case the President has pardoned a law enforcement officer who repeatedly, intentionally, and systematically violated the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. He did it on the basis of racial identity which is special kind of hate crime.
A hate crime is a crime perpetrated by a person with an animus towards another person or persons for no other reason than the fact that the victim(s) of the crime belong to a segment of society of which the perpetrator does not approve. These segments of society could be race, nationality, religion, gender, age, disability, etc. The perpetrator usually does not belong to the segment of society upon which he/she perpetrates the crime. The crime could be physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, or abuse of a physical piece of property.
However Trump’s pardon went further than any Presidential pardon in the past. Not only did he pardon a criminal who was guilty of a hate crime,but he pardoned a criminal who openly and notoriously disobeyed a Federal Court Order demanding compliance with the U.S. Constitution.
Thus Trump’s pardon of Arapio signaled Trump’s lack of respect for the other two branches of government. In one pardon Donald Trump proved he lacks respect for the separation of powers. By supporting Arapio’s defiance of the law and the US Constitution, Trump demonstrated his lack of respect for the legislative branch of government. By pardoning Arapio Trump also demonstrated his lack of respect for, and defiance of, the judicial branch of government. By pardoning a criminal who intentionally defied two Court orders, Trump signals that Federal Judges have no power if they rule contrary to the wishes of the President.
If Congress does not impeach Trump due to this pardon, then Congress has given Trump supreme authority to violate the US Constitution, federal law, and Judicial Orders. That makes Trump a dictator and able to ignore all laws and federal courts. That would make Trump America’s first dictator.