Donald Trump's Pardon of Joe Arpaio Was Politically and Morally Wrong, as Well as Unnecessary

While the pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, by President Donald Trump is being applauded by many in his base, it is receiving criticism from conservatives and some notable Republican officials.

There was speculation that Trump announced the Arpaio pardon late on Friday and while Hurricane Harvey was approaching Texas because he hoped it would get as little attention as possible. Trump now says it was just the opposite -- he did it because it would generate the highest ratings. Whatever the case, the pardon certainly has received a lot of attention in news outlets, including conservative ones.

On Fox News Sunday, Republican strategist Karl Rove said the power to pardon was “ill-exercised,” because Arpaio had been found guilty of  violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling when making arrests. Rove also correctly noted that the pardon did not go through the proper channels in the Justice Department, and that Trump had stepped in only to save a “political ally” from going to jail.

In an editorial, National Review explained:

[T]he facts are that Sheriff Arpaio repeatedly flouted court orders and detained aliens on suspicion of being in the United States illegally, which is not a crime under federal law (it’s a civil offense).

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Trump’s issuance of a full pardon effectively endorses Arpaio’s misconduct.

The editors concluded:

Arpaio is a hero to the populist Right, but his theatrical, inhumane imprisonment policies, ham-fisted immigration enforcement, and all-around witless showmanship had become so toxic that he got soundly thrashed in his latest reelection bid in a Trump-friendly county.

The Washington Examiner ran an editorial titled “Trump, Once the Law and Order Candidate, Embraces Lawless Disorder with Arpaio Pardon.” For Trump, “law and order” seems to mean “busting heads.” The editorial continues:

Arpaio's defiance of a judge's order to stop detaining people simply based on the suspicion that they were illegal immigrants was worthy of punishment. His career as a veteran and a long-time public servant does not change that. As sheriff, Arpaio's office would routinely detain Latinos solely on the suspicion they had broken immigration law, without any evidence whatsoever that a crime had been committed. It was government overreach that was backed up by Arpaio's authority, all while it was supposed to be Arpaio's job to protect the people of Maricopa County from injustice.

Joining them in opposition to the president’s pardon was the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which stated:

President Trump’s pardon late Friday of deposed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio undermines that promise [by Trump, during the campaign, to abide by the law] and further politicizes the law.

Arpaio’s long public service, they added, “hardly justifies the sheriff’s defiance of the law he swore to uphold." A sentence of criminal contempt, the editorial explained, “is the only way to hold government officials personally responsible for violating court orders.” They continue: