Critics: Trump pardon his latest affront against judiciary
President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio shows a lack of regard for an independent judiciary, say critics who note Trump’s past criticism of federal judges, including the chief justice of the United States. Supporters counter that the veteran law-enforcement officer deserved America’s gratitude, “not the injustice of a political witch hunt.”
“I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85-year-old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!,” Trump tweeted late Friday after the White House announced that he had used his pardon power for the first time, sparing a political ally the prospect of jail time for defying court orders to halt police patrols that focused on Latinos.
The announcement came as Trump hunkered down at the Camp David presidential retreat while millions along the Texas coast braced themselves for Hurricane Harvey’s impact. Trump’s decision also followed the uproar that ensued after he said “both sides” were responsible for deadly violence during race-fueled clashes this month in Charlottesville, Va.
There is no legal dispute over Trump’s ability to pardon in a contempt of court case, as was Arpaio’s. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1925 that a presidential pardon for a criminal contempt of court sentence was within the powers of the executive, and Trump had telegraphed his move for days. But the pardon was unusual given that Arpaio was awaiting sentencing. It also had not gone through the normal pardon process, which includes lengthy reviews by the Justice Department and the White House counsel’s office.
Reaction to the decision was sharp and swift, including among some fellow Republicans with whom Trump has been feuding openly.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., signaled his disagreement with the pardon through his spokesman. “Law-enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States,” Ryan spokesman Doug Andres said in a statement.