President Donald Trump continued his trend of ignoring the rule of law by pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio Friday.
“Arpaio’s life and career, which began at the age of 18 when he enlisted in the military after the outbreak of the Korean War, exemplify selfless public service,” read a statement from the White House. “After serving in the Army, Arpaio became a police officer in Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas, Nev. and later served as a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, formerly the Bureau of Narcotics. After 25 years of admirable service, Arpaio went on to lead the DEA’s branch in Arizona.”
“I am humbled and incredibly grateful to President Trump,” said Arpaio on the social media website Twitter. “I look fwd to putting this chapter behind me and helping to #MAGA.”
Union leaders were quick to denounce Trump’s actions, citing it as more proof of his racism. 32BJ President Hector Figueroa said the president doesn’t care about rules.
“Trump’s pardon of ex-Sheriff Arpaio is a cowardly and disgraceful act spurred by the same racism and anti-immigrant fervor on display in Charlottesville last week,” said Figueroa in a statement. “Even as the public reels after the fallout from Virginia, President Trump is sending yet another message that his White House supports those who abuse people of color and break the law with impunity.”
Trump did not consult the Justice Department before announcing the pardon of Arpaio, with a representative telling CNN that the president “exercised his lawful authority and we respect his decision.”
Arpaio ran a jail that he described a concentration camp, where numerous prisoners died and prisoners were abused. He was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court after refusing to obey court orders to halt his roundup of immigrants. Arpaio also supported Trump’s belief that former President Barack Obama wasn’t an American citizen and was born in Kenya.
In 2013, the co-founders of the Phoenix New Times (Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin), who covered Arpaio’s crimes, were arrested in their homes in the middle of the night and jailed on misdemeanor charges claiming that they violated the secrecy of a grand jury that was never convened. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved a $3.75 million settlement for Lacey and Larkin.
During a rally in Phoenix last week, Trump asked the crowd “So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” He predicted, “I think he’s going to be just fine, OK?”
Figueroa said Trump’s presidency is dangerous to America.
“Ex-Sherriff Arpaio’s illegal arrests destroyed countless lives. Not only did ex-Sheriff Arpaio illegally round up residents because of the color of their skin, he refused to prosecute crimes against Latino children, making communities less safe by allowing perpetrators to go free,” said Figueroa. “President Trump’s pardon show a disturbing lack of regard for the rule of law and American values.”
In a joint statement, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker collectively expressed concern about American democracy.
“President Trump didn’t just pardon a thug and a criminal, he undermined the rule of law and betrayed the basic norms of our democracy just to hype up his base,” read the statement. “Democrats and Republicans alike, including Sen. John McCain and even right-wing members of Congress, have condemned this action because Trump’s blatant abuse of power undermines the dignity of the office of the presidency and tears at the fabric of a just and fair democracy built on the rule of law for all.”