Of all the people in America, it is likely there are very few as dirty and corrupt as Donald J. Trump; he is a legitimately bad human being. One of those “very few” is another man who believes he can make, enforce, and adjudicate his own laws, supersede all state and federal authority, ignore federal court orders, and has raging animus for people of color. Of course that person is Joe Arpaio and if anyone was surprised that his like-minded and lawless cohort Trump pardoned him they are bereft of a brain. Everybody and their brother knew the minute that Arpaio was convicted that Trump would surely keep him out of slam, and he did exactly that.
First, one thing has to be addressed, and cleared up immediately; Joe Arpaio was not convicted of a crime because he was “doing his job.” That is precisely what Trump said on Tuesday in Phoenix during yet another campaign rally, and he was sending a clear message to Hispanics and his racist base.
Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court. He blatantly flouted a federal court order to stop playing federal immigration officer and immigration judge by illegally detaining and imprisoning people that “he suspected” of being undocumented immigrants. One can say with the utmost confidence that there is no job in America that requires blowing off a federal court order, there just isn’t and yet that is precisely what Trump insinuated when he told his racist devotees in Phoenix that “Sheriff Joe [was] convicted for doing his job?”
Arpaio’s criminal conviction actually had its beginnings over a decade ago stemming from a lawsuit against his sheriff’s office for “regularly violating the rights of Latinos.” Those regular violations included just stopping people based solely on their racial profile (people with brown skin), arresting and detaining them based on the sheriff’s suspicion they were in America illegally, and turning them over to immigration authorities; again based on the sheriff’s “suspicion” and their racial profile.
In 2011, a Federal District Court judge finally ordered Arpaio to cease, immediately, stopping people based on their skin color and detaining them based “solely on the sheriff’s suspicion” of their immigration status. The federal judge particularly noted that Arpaio was stopping and detaining citizens despite there was never even any suspicion they had violated any state law; they did, however, have brown skin.
Despite Arpaio’s sheriff’s office facing more lawsuits for illegally detaining American citizens and Latinos that were in the country legally, he continued the illegal practice because, like Don Trump, Arpaio believes he is a law unto himself. That being the case, and despite the federal judge’s order, Arpaio kept insisting that everything he was doing, including unconstitutional tactics, were legal according to his determination and that he would continue employing them.
That is what Arpaio was convicted for; having criminal contempt for a Federal District Court order and judge. It is worth reiterating for dumb Donnie Trump and his racist zealot following that Arpaio’s sheriff job description did not ever include flagrantly disobeying federal court orders.
One wonders if Trump didn’t get his racist idea of pressuring local police forces into deploying their officers to hunt down and round up Latinos “they suspect” are undocumented immigrants after learning that is what Arpaio was doing for years. Arpaio, as a county sheriff, knew he was not any part of the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Border Patrol, but that didn’t then and still doesn’t now, make any difference to him. He, like Trump, believes he is beholden to one set of laws and they are the ones he makes up in his head.
Trump also pardoned the criminal Arpaio to send a message to his base that abusing the rights of Americans and immigrants based solely on the color of their skin, or a person’s suspicion about their immigration status is “just doing a job.” For Arpaio, that job entailed abusing prisoners as well as facing lawsuits over inmate deaths.
At least Trump faced a bit of rage from Americans who see his ugly, but legal, pardon for what it is meant to be: a “clear and ugly message to Hispanic Americans.” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was rightfully irritated and wrote:
“Pardoning Joe Arpaio is a slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County. Sheriff Joe Arpaio targeted and terrorized Latino families because of the color of their skin. He was ordered by a federal judge to stop and he refused. He received a fair trial and a justifiable conviction, and there’s nothing the President Trump can do to change that awful legacy and the stain he had left on our community.”
It is a sad legacy that Trump is leaving the same stain on America; and why wouldn’t he? Trump and Arpaio are both old, fat, white guys who refuse to adhere to any law or convention their dysfunctional brain refuses to accept. They are also both racists who do, and will, make up, or break laws that conform to white supremacy. And that ugly awful pardon is to show his alliance Arpaio and the incredibly stupid people who actually believe that being criminally contempt of court was part of his job.
Image: Damon Winter/The New York Times