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Horowitz: Trump Continues Politics of Racial Division with Disgraceful Pardon of Arpaio

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Rob Horowitz

Give the White House credit for attempting to bury the pardon of former Maricopa  County Sheriff Joe Arpaio beneath the wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Harvey.  But even all the rain that hit South Texas over the weekend was not enough to wash away President Trump’s disgraceful and racially divisive act.

Arpaio was recently convicted of contempt of court for repeatedly defying a court order designed to stop his unconstitutionally detaining people based on loose suspicions about their immigration status; in other words, recklessly without probably cause singling out and detaining Latinos.  Arpaio, who was soundly defeated for re-election in 2016, oversaw a law enforcement agency which demonstrated the worst pattern of racial profiling in our nation’s history, according to the Justice Department.  He also systematically mistreated and discriminated against Latino prisoners.

In his hurry to issue the pardon, Trump did not even wait for the Judge to sentence Arpaio. He also bypassed the traditional Justice Department review as well as the requirement that the person to be pardoned demonstrate remorse for his actions.  In fact, at a rally last week in Phoenix, Trump pretty much endorsed Arpaio’s unconstitutional and discriminatory methods.  An early supporter of President Trump, the former Sheriff shares Trump’s anti-immigration fervor and is a fellow-birther.

 The newspaper that most closely covered Sherriff Arpaio over the years, The Arizona Republic, editorialized that, “By pardoning Arpaio, Trump made it clear that institutional racism is not just OK with him. It is a goal.”

Both of Arizona’s Republican United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, joined the state’s leading newspaper in criticizing the decision. McCain said, “No one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold. Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders. The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) sounded a similar note. His spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that Ryan disagreed with the decision because, "Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon."

Coming on the heels of Charlottesville, the Arpaio pardon confirms that President Trump will choose division over bringing the nation together every time. Sherriff Apaio abused his power by blatantly discriminating against Latino Americans.  For President Trump, that is not something to forgive; it is something to applaud.  That is a disgrace.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island


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