Who knows what will make the final “top 10” list of the biggest and most offensive gaffes of the Trump administration whenever it ends and history takes over? But surely the outrageous pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio – he got beaten last year for re-election despite having raised $12 million for his campaign – will be right up there.
Arpaio was found guilty by a judge of criminal contempt for defying a court order that directed him to stop detaining immigrants he personally suspected of being in the country illegally. He became famous with the right wing of the Republican party for “immigration patrols” clearly aimed at people of color. And he housed some inmates in tents outside in Arizona’s triple-digit heat.
Even his own state’s Republican U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, had no use for Arpaio, which is why they criticized President Trump for a premature pardon of the sheriff. He was pardoned more for being a political ally of Trump’s than for any judgment on Trump’s part that Arpaio had been wrongly accused. The president likely didn’t even know what the charges against Arpaio were, or how serious they were.
This was an incredibly inappropriate abuse of power, a clear nod to Arpaio’s political allegiance, and it cheapens the system that allows the president broad power when it comes to granting pardons. Trump has further damaged his credibility with Congress and with the public with this arrogant act. He was clearly nodding to a political supporter without regard to right or wrong and without respect for the legal system.
When President Trump thumbs his nose at the country’s system of justice, he does so toward all residents. Evidenced by his falling approval numbers, more and more Americans apparently are starting to realize that.