Trump’s First Pardon
Original article by Gabe Acosta
President Trump is setting up for a rally in Phoenix next week. This rally, like many before it, has the opportunity to bring up a huge Arizona controversy. Based on some public statements he has made, there appears to be a chance that Trump will use this rally to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of Arizona’s most controversial figures.
It is clear why Trump is considering a pardon for Arpaio. Arpaio was an early supporter of Trump’s ( he spoke in support of then-candidate Trump at the Republican National Convention in July 2016) and they both share draconian views on criminal justice, including aggressively pursuing undocumented immigrants.
As for whether Trump has the authority to pardon Arpaio: the powers of a presidential pardon are very broadly defined. A recent discussion about whether the President can pardon himself gives us some information about how a pardon would work. Generally, a president can pardon anyone who is convicted or accused of a federal crime. While this power is broad, it is usually used as a tool for mercy.
Justice Stephen Field, writing for the Supreme Court in the 1866… called the power ‘the benign prerogative of mercy,’ highlighting one of the reasons for its existence. Seen this way, the power is a check against judicial overreach, against a miscarriage of justice, available as an act of compassion. – Andrew Rudalevige, https://www.washingtonpost.com
The exact crime that Arpaio has been convicted of, and which Trump is considering pardoning him for, is his defiance of a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.
The DOJ accused the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office of racial profiling in traffic stops and immigration sweeps and discriminating against Spanish speakers in county jails. By then, Judge G. Murray Snow of the United States District Court in Phoenix ruled the sheriff’s office could not stop and detain Latinos based only on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally. But the sheriff did not follow the judge’s ruling, continuing his immigration patrols for 17 months, according to U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, who found him guilty of misdemeanor contempt of court late last month. – Tucson Star Editorial Board, http://tucson.com
For this, Arpaio faces up to six months in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for later this year.
Arpaio’s crime is covered under the presidential power to pardon. However, the power of a presidential pardon should be thought of as a moral tool, rather than a legal one. In the context of a presidential pardon as a tool for mercy, it might be worth it for the President to consider what Arpaio has done. It is clear what Arpaio thinks. He told Fox News, “I would accept the pardon because I am 100 percent not guilty.”
Arpaio’s tenure as Maricopa County Sheriff shows he may not be deserving. He has aggressively pursued the law in a way that is discriminatory towards Latinos, and has treated people in his care harshly, the charge that ultimately stuck in court. He has also forced inmates to wear pink underwear and parade them through the jails. His infamous “Tent City” has kept inmates out in triple-digit heat to sweat out the Arizona sun. While this is not an exhaustive list of what Arpaio has done, this does not paint a pretty picture.
We must now wait until this Tuesday to see what the President decides. If you have a strong opinion on this matter, call your local representative to have your voice heard. Or, considering the President will be in Phoenix on Tuesday, maybe go to the rally and let him know what you think.
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