IMPEACH! The Arpaio Pardon Seals Either Trump’s Fate, or America’s
In an August 22nd Op-Ed for Bloomberg, Harvard Professor Noah Feldman wrote that an Arpaio pardon by President Trump “would not be an ordinary exercise of the power — it would be an impeachable offense.” Feldman went on to explain why, saying that such a pardon would amount to an “assault on the federal judiciary, the Constitution and the rule of law itself” , and that for such a thing the “remedy is impeachment.”
In a July 24th editorial for the Washington Post, Andrew Rudalevige, a Professor of Government at Bowdain College, and an expert in Presidential authority, also warned that Trump he “may find out that something can be both legal and, simultaneously, an impeachable offense.”
This is because an impeachment, as evidenced by the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, for example, does not necessarily remove a President from office. Impeachment can amount to nothing more than a slap on the wrist from a President’s political opposition, and those in their own party who go along with rebuking them for their behavior. And that can include legal behavior – like lying to your wife, and illegal behavior, like lying under oath – even if it’s about lying to your wife.
But what Trump has done is far more than simply lie in answer to untoward questions about his private life which probably should never have been asked, but in the middle of a political witch hunt, were. And no matter how much Trump may characterize things that way, as “a political witch-hunt”, they most certainly are not. There are real questions of abuse of power, and the possibility of collusion with foreign enemies of the United States, surrounding the current President of the United States. Not merely questions about sexual impropriety (although there are those, as well, and serious ones).
Trump’s Broken Oath
But what about Trump having aiding and abetting domestic enemies of the United States, and the Constitution? When he was inaugurated, President Trump – like all US Presidents, took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. And in pardoning Joe Arpaio, President Trump has betrayed that oath in the clearest possible way.
Related: Arpaio’s Reign of Terror
Trump said that Arpaio was convicted for doing his job, but that’s not true. If Arpaio had been doing his job, namely upholding the rule of law, he would have obeyed it. After all, Arpaio took an Oath to protect and defend the Constitution, too. Instead, Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court for refusing to end so-called “saturation patrols”, sweeps by Arpaio’s police force which used gestapo like tactics of stopping people based on their ethnic appearance, and detaining those they deemed undocumented, or could find any other excuse to do so in the course of their interaction.
In other words, Arpaio was engaging in a systematic, deliberate oppression by force of anyone they chose to, based simply on their ethnic appearance. Initially Arpaio claimed to be enforcing the law. But when the law said to stop, he didn’t, and the oppression continued for another year and a half. And make no mistake about it, all that time Joe Arpaio was placing himself above the law. No longer could he claim any semblance of enforcing the law – he was enforcing only his own decree, and doing so in direct contradiction of the Constitution. And that made him exactly the kind of enemy of the Constitution that Trump swore an Oath to defend it against.
Or, as Judge Bolton put it,
“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise.”
In an extremely thought provoking, must read commentary for the Chicago Tribune entitled “Pardoning Joe Arpaio would be a constitutional crisis“, New York University School of Law Professor Bob Bauer, the co-director of the college’s Legislative and Regulatory Process Clinic, summed it up nicely, saying:
“It is very difficult to imagine that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would recommend a pardon of a law enforcement officer convicted of willfully and openly flouting a federal court order. And Sessions’s disinclination to give his boss cover would be all the greater in a case involving racial profiling, defiance of constitutional limits on local law enforcement, unprofessional conduct over an extended period of years, and to this day, the prospective pardon recipient’s refusal to accept responsibility for his acts.”
Trump Acted Against the Rule of Law
In order to protect the Constitution which he swore defend when taking the Oath that inaugurated him into the office he holds, President Trump merely had to do nothing. He needed only to allow the rule of law to hold sway, and not provide succor or relief to a person who had deemed themselves above it.
As one Senator put it:
This strikes at the heart of the rule of law in America. It violates his oath of office.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) August 26, 2017
But, if we need any other reasons to hold hearings, bear in mind that this is the same President who:
- Claimed that some of those who marched in Charlottesville with literal Nazis and the Klan were “very fine people”. Anyone marching with Nazis and the KKK are NOT “very fine people” – they are standing with our enemies.
- Brought White Supremacists like Steve Bannon and actual Nazis like Seb Gorka into his administration.
- Fanned the flames of the racist “birther” nonsense (along with Arpaio) — which was nothing less than an assault on the legitimacy of the Presidency, based on race. And by pardoning Arpaio, has made that something he’s shown support for as President, rather than just before he was President.
- Urged violence against dissenters at his rallies — people exercising their constitutionally protected Freedom of Speech — which, conveniently, seemed to focus on non-whites,.
- Calls any news that exposes his wrongs or even questions him, and doesn’t out-right flatter him “fake news”, undermining the constitutionally protected freedom of the press.
- Mused aloud about having journalists killed, which naturally is also an assault on the Constitution’s First Amendment.
- Who seems desperate to obstruct and distract from the investigation into his ties to Russia and the possibility he may have betrayed this nation to Russia in order to win the White House, and has gone so far as to fire an FBI director who was leading the investigation.
And so there is ample reason to hold impeachment hearings – and woe for the future of America if we don’t. Because if we don’t at least hold the hearings, then America will become a nation where an Oath to protect and defend the Constitution means nothing – whether it’s a local sheriff taking it, or the President of the United States.
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Edward Lynn is a photographer, a graphic and web designer, a writer, an activist, a son, a brother, and a parent, just trying to do some good in the world we all have to live in. More posts by Edward Lynn.