News & Politics

Trump’s Arpaio Pardon Signals a Constitution in Crisis

The president is acting like a dictator.

Caricature of Donald Trump adapted from Gage Skidmore's Flickr photostream.
Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr/Creative Commons

Amid a category 4 hurricane pummelling Texas, President Donald Trump quietly pardoned Joe Arpaio. The former sheriff was convicted for criminal contempt after he ignored a court’s rule to stop targeting Latinos for detainment. Arpaio’s sentencing was set for October 8th.

Trump’s pardon is disturbing for a number of reasons. The obvious one: Arpaio is an unapologetic racist whose pardon proves that the president will assist political leaders in circumventing the law when it comes to racial discrimination. Arpaio routinely abused people of color and did so over a period of many years, starting in the 1990s.

The president described Arpaio as merely getting into legal trouble for doing his job. The idea that Trump perceives the routine, unlawful detainment of a racial minorities to be a basic part of policing should send a chill down Americans’ spines.

But perhaps the scariest part of this pardon is the implication it has for the rule of law. Trump used the pardon like a dictator, interfering in the sentencing of a criminal person because that individual is a political ally.

Arpaio’s support for the president and resulting pardon proves the biggest fear of the Trump era to be true: our rule of law is broken. And we have very little recourse against this sort of violation outside of removing the president.

President George W. Bush, while he commuted a prison sentence of ally Scooter Libby, resisted calls to pardon him, leaving the other sentences and legal record in tact. What Trump did in offering a complete pardon to Arpaio is new.

Trump signalled that our nation of laws is crumbling and its constitutional form of government is in crisis. The resulting political system mirrors the authoritarian regimes we used to cite as our cautionary tales.

It’s a dire time to be an American.

Chris Sosa is a managing editor at AlterNet. His work also appears in Mic, Salon, Care2, Huffington Post and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisSosa.

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