On Monday, MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough predicted that President Donald Trump’s controversial pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio would be included in articles of impeachment should Trump be impeached.
“If articles of impeachment years down the road are ever brought up against this man, these are the sort of things that are going to be attached in abuse of power,” Scarborough said. “As [Sen.] Jeff Flake (R-Az.) said, he didn’t let a judicial process play itself out. He cut it short.”
The MSNBC host admitted that “yes, he had the authority to do this.” Even so, Trump’s pardon of Arpaio caused a stir on both Left and Right.
While Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court, this charge was but the tip of the iceberg, according to Ricochet editor Jon Gabriel, who lives in Arpaio’s Maricopa County. The sheriff’s racial profiling against Hispanics was legendary. Here’s a sampling:
During one three-year period, his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office didn’t properly investigate more than 400 alleged sex crimes, many of them involving child molestation. …
When local journalists delved into Arpaio’s dealings, he had them arrested, a move that ultimately cost taxpayers $3.75 million. We paid $3.5 million more after the sheriff wrongfully arrested a county supervisor who had been critical of him. …
Arpaio’s staff concocted an imaginary assassination attempt on the sheriff, presumably for news coverage. Taxpayers had to pay the framed defendant $1.1 million after he was found not guilty.
The sheriff’s department misspent $100 million on the sheriff’s pet projects, and wasted up to $200 million in taxpayer money on lawsuits. Yet he still found money to send a deputy to Hawaii to look for President Obama’s birth certificate.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) attacked Trump for pardoning “a govt official who ignored Bill of Rights.”
Arpaio was convicted of defying court order to stop violating #4thAmendment. It's a pardon of a govt official who ignored Bill of Rights.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) August 26, 2017
Flake, whom Arpaio announced he might challenge in the 2018 Republican primary, also criticized Trump for the pardon. “I would have preferred the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course,” Flake tweeted.
Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) August 26, 2017
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) used the incident to paint Trump as a racist. “By pardoning Joe Arpaio, President Trump has demonstrated his contempt for the rule of law and the racism at the core of his agenda,” SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement.
It may not be surprising that the SPLC — a group that brands Christian nonprofits as “hate” groups, and lists Muslim reformers on “hate” maps — would engage in the hyperbole of calling Trump racist. The president’s pardon of Arpaio might have more to do with the sheriff’s support for Trump than with any endorsement of racial profiling.
Even so, this might be the closest to actual proof of racism on the president’s part.
As Scarborough noted, the investigation into Arpaio started under President George W. Bush, not Barack Obama. The New York Times‘s political correspondent Nick Confessore warned that Trump’s pardon might be “a green light to the other Joe Arpaio’s out there.”
The pardon may or may not make an impeachment more likely, but Scarborough is right to suggest that if impeachment does happen, this incident will likely appear on the list of grievances. Trump has made many mistakes, but the Arpaio pardon is a tempting piece of low-hanging fruit that brings members of both parties together. The president cannot afford to do this again.