The Trump administration has made prodigious use of the “Friday night news dump” since taking office. And with much of the nation distracted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the potential natural disaster of catastrophic flooding to occur over the next several days, the Trump administration announced, among other moves, the first presidential pardon issued by President Trump to former Maricopa County Sheriff crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio. President Donald Trump pardons former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
It was not a pardon issued in the “regular order” of how pardons are issued by the Department of Justice, Standards for Consideration of Clemecy Petitioners, but rather was a patently political pardon issued by the president to a political supporter and friend — Trump announced his intentions at his Phoenix campaign rally — a dispensation if you will, to Trump’s partner in crime in the racist Obama “birther” movement and his anti-immigrant nationalism movement.
Arpaio was found by the court to have singled out people based on their race for disproportionate law enforcement scrutiny with his immigration sweeps, which violated their constitutional civil rights and the fundamental principle of equal justice under the law.
Arpaio was ordered by the Court to cease and desist, and his office agreed to a consent agreement with the Department of Justice to monitor his compliance. Arpaio defiantly violated the court’s order and that agreement. Arpaio had a legal duty to obey the court’s order while appealing it. Arpaio was properly found guilty of criminal contempt of the court’s order.
Trump’s pardon of Arpaio sends the message that some people are above the law if they have friends in high places in the White House.
This is an insult to the rule of law, to the judiciary, and to American citizens who put their faith and trust in the American legal system of justice. When the president abuses the power of his office by issuing pardons to his family, friends and political supporters, justice is not served. Justice is denied.
This pardon was also meant to be a signal to members of the Trump campaign who are under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Trump-Putin campaign investigation that they do not have to cut an immunity deal with Mueller for their testimony. The president is signaling to them “I have your back, do not cooperate with Mueller, I will pardon you before you face legal jeopardy.”
In this respect, the implication of a “get out of jail free card” pardon from the president should properly be viewed as witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
On the very day that Trump issued the Arpaio pardon, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Special counsel Robert Mueller is examining what role, if any, former national security adviser Michael Flynn may have played in a private effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, according to people familiar with the matter.” Mueller Probes If Flynn Had Role in Clinton Emails Hunt (pay wall article). Flynn had previously sought immunity to “tell his story.”
NBC News also reported that “Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas seeking testimony from public relations executives who worked on an international campaign organized by former Trump campaign adviser Paul Manafort, citing people familiar with the matter.” Mueller seeking testimony from PR executives with Manafort ties: NBC.
Does anyone seriously believe that Trump will not issue a pardon to his sons and to his son-in-law Jared Kushner should they face legal jeopardy from Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Of course he will. Trump has no respect for the Constitution or the rule of law.
Timing is everything, however. What Trump may not realize is that once a pardon is issued, these witnesses can no longer assert their fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination because they no longer face criminal jeopardy. They can be forced to testify. And if they refuse or lie under oath, they can be charged again for a new crime.
Other moves by the Trump administration in the “Friday night news dump”:
Sebastian Gorka, a controversial White House staffer who served as a fiery spokesman for President Trump on national security matters, abruptly left the administration on Friday as his nationalist faction was being silenced, four people briefed on Gorka’s exit confirmed. Sebastian Gorka, a fiery nationalist and Bannon ally, abruptly exits White House. UPDATE: You just knew that this was coming: Gorka to return to Breitbart.
President Trump on Friday directed the Pentagon to ban the recruitment of openly transgender people, but is leaving it to military leaders to determine whether individuals already in the armed forces should be allowed to continue to serve. Trump directs Pentagon to implement ban on transgender service members, bans sex-reassignment surgery.
UPDATE: The New York Times reports that Trump Asked Top Aides Months Ago if Arpaio Case Could Be Dropped, Officials Say. The attorney general and White House counsel promptly said no to the president, who has often been indifferent to the notion of separation of powers (and the rule of law).