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August 25, 2017

"Jeff Sessions Should Be Screaming Bloody Murder About a Potential Joe Arpaio Pardon"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting Reason commentary authored by Mike Riggs.  Here are excerpts:

President Donald Trump did not pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at his Arizona rally on Tuesday, but CNN reports that the paperwork and accompanying talking points are ready.  Should he pardon Arpaio at some point in the near future, it would be both completely legal and an affront to everything his attorney general supposedly holds dear.

"One of the talking points is that Arpaio served his country for 50 years in the military, the Drug Enforcement Administration and as Arizona's Maricopa County sheriff," CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, "and that it is not appropriate to send him to prison for 'enforcing the law' and 'working to keep people safe.'"  Arpaio is not facing six months behind bars for "enforcing the law" or "working to keep people safe," any more than drug dealers are sentenced to prison for "making people happy."  Arpaio disregarded a judge's order and was convicted of felony contempt of court.  He did the crime, by his own logic and that of the U.S. Attorney General, and he should now do some time.

But if Trump decides to spare the 85-year-old Arpaio six months of incarceration — we won't know until October if he'll actually serve any time behind bars — he has that power. Yes, it would signal a break with historical precedent, but that's really the only constraint on executive clemency....

If anyone in Trump's orbit should be discouraging him from pardonning Arpaio, it's Sessions.  When Pres. Bill Clinton pardoned financier Marc Rich in the final hours of his presidency, Rich had not even stood trial.  He fled the U.S. in 1983 after being indicted for trading with Iran during the hostage crisis, and spent the rest of his life living comfortably abroad.  During his absence, Rich's family in the U.S. funneled more than a million dollars to the Democratic National Committee, the senatorial campaign of Hillary Clinton, and the Clinton Presidential Library.  When Clinton eventually pardoned him at the behest of Israel's government, the prosecutors who worked to indict Rich were understandably furious, as were many members of Congress.

"From what I've seen, based on the law of bribery in the United States, if a person takes a thing of value for himself or for another person that influences their decision in a matter of their official capacity, then that could be a criminal offense,'' Sen. Jeff Sessions told the New York Times in 2001.  One might think Sessions would feel similarly about the current president rewarding a campaign surrogate with a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Sessions also objected to the clemency initiative, which Obama launched in 2014 and continued through the end of his second term.  This was the most systematic attempt to heal the wounds of a stupid war since President Jimmy Carter pardoned men who evaded the draft for Vietnam.  Sessions, however, declared Obama's efforts to shorten insanely long drug sentences a betrayal of the American justice system.  "To unilaterally determine that a sentence was unjustified simply because the president disagrees with the underlying criminal justice policy is a thumb in the eye of the law enforcement officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, court and prison personnel who put time and resources into these cases," Sessions said in 2014.

Just a month ago, Sessions said he was committed to holding law-breaking cops accountable.  "Just as I'm committed to defending law enforcement who lawfully have to use deadly force to defend themselves while engaged in their work," he told the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, "I will also use the power of the office I'm entrusted with to hold any officer responsible who violates the law."

If Arpaio is an exception to Sessions' position on executive clemency and holding criminal cops accountable, I can't wait to hear his explanation.

A few prior related posts:

August 25, 2017 at 11:07 AM | Permalink


Silly nitpicking by what I thought was a libertarian magazine, but is a Democratic Party talking points, unhinged, propaganda outlet.

The entire conviction was a political witch hunt. It violated several rules of procedures and of ethics. The conviction is itself retaliatory. It is not a crime to enforce federal law, and to cooperate with federal police authorities. It is a crime to use one's public office for tawdry, partisan, political attacks. It is the Hispanic prosecutor and the feminist judge who should be investigated, arrested, tried and sent to prison. To deter.

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 25, 2017 11:47:08 AM

Surpassing silliness. Arpaio ain't in the same ballpark as Marc Rich.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 25, 2017 12:52:24 PM

"an affront to everything his attorney general supposedly holds dear"

Oh please. Yes, this isn't Marc Rich, or any number of major cases.

This is a petty case of Trump teasing (a usual technique of his) some possibility, here using his pardon power, to appeal to his base. If this violates everything Sessions holds dear, unsure why he was an early Trump supporter.

"Sessions said he was committed to holding law-breaking cops accountable."

Well, who wouldn't be? The Attorney General isn't going to say he ISN'T for that. He isn't like Trump telling police officers to not be too careful when putting people in squad cars and vans. He has some finesse.

I'm sure this violates Sessions overall principles and wouldn't be surprised if he isn't a big fan of Trump floating the idea. If nothing else, since it is such a petty thing to do (at the end of the day, what really is the guy likely to serve? he's in his 80s). But, "bloody murder"? Grow up.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 25, 2017 1:55:29 PM

Joe. The only people breaking the law ware that biased Hispanic prosecutor, using his position to attack his political enemies, and that feminist judge who failed to recuse herself.

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 25, 2017 2:53:26 PM

To be clear, surely, a pardon here would be a lousy idea, particularly regarding the message it would send on more than one matter, but it doesn't violate some grave principle of Jeff Sessions & to the degree it's horrible, it's on principle not on the breadth of the crime committed ala various cases.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 25, 2017 3:09:18 PM

Has lightning struck? I mostly agree with Joe, and to the extent I don't, I am just going to hold my tongue.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 25, 2017 3:48:09 PM

Seems like it happened at least once before. Might be like a clock.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 25, 2017 4:12:26 PM

I'm disgusted by the pardon but yes the commentary is overblown.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 25, 2017 8:09:46 PM

Joe. Do you know why you are disgusted by the pardon?

I know the answer.

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 25, 2017 9:12:43 PM

There are so many incompetent Judges. Look at the Ninth Circuit Court and my county and how many more that are completely unqualified to judge others, they are glorified attorney's.

Posted by: LC in Texas | Aug 26, 2017 7:49:08 PM

A spokesman said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) opposed the pardon. He was the highest-ranking Republican lawmaker to do so.

“The speaker does not agree with the decision,” Ryan spokesman Doug Andres said in a statement. “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.”

Posted by: Emily from Iowa | Aug 27, 2017 1:36:42 PM

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