The Weiner Component V.2 #31 – The Significance of the Arpaio Pardon

Map of Arizona highlighting Maricopa County

Map of Arizona highlighting Maricopa County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Friday, August 25, 2017, President Donald J. Trump pardoned the misdemeanor conviction of Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.  He was found guilty of criminal contempt by a Judge after illegally targeting Latinos, a group that constitutes about 1/3 of the population of Arizona, as illegal immigrants.  The sentencing phase of his trial was due on October 5, 2017.  He could have gotten up to six months in confinement.

 

Apparently Trump did not clear the pardon with his Justice Department.  He assumed that as President he could just issue a pardon.  While Arpaio may have acted criminally as sheriff he was not accused of breaking any law.  Instead he was found guilty of criminal contempt.  He has systematically refused to obey Court Orders.  This was his crime.

 

The government of the United States is set-up in three parts.  Each of the parts serves as a check upon the other two sections.  Trump pardoned Arpaio of refusing part of the system of checks and balances.  Basically he abrogated the power of the Courts given to them by the Constitution.  Does the Constitution give him the power to weaken itself?

 

Listening to Trump and Arpaio after the pardon had been issued one got the impression that neither of these two understood the significance of the Constitution.  Both spoke of the case having gone away like it never existed.  When former President Richard Nixon accepted a pardoned in 1974 from then President Gerald Ford, even though he had never been tried or convicted of any crime, he acknowledged that he was guilty of participating in the Watergate burglary and cover-up.  Former sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, by accepting Trump’s pardon, officially admitted that he was guilty of the Contempt of Court charge, that he had practiced racial profiling as sheriff and had refused to follow court orders to stop the practice, that he, in a manner of speaking had abrogated the concept of checks and balances between the three different parts of government: the administration, the legislative, and the courts.

 

With Trump’s pardon the criminal case had presumably ended.  Arpaio’s pardon was an admission of guilt. By accepting the pardon Joseph Michael (Joe) Arpaio had admitted guilt; he had made innumerable arrests and jailing’s based upon racial profiling.  This action would also be true for all people of color.  I would assume that virtually every Latino and Black who had been arbitrarily stopped, hassled, possibly arrested and jailed in the years from 1993 to 2016, the years Arpaio was sheriff, could sue both him and the county for racial profiling.  In fact it would make a splendid class action suit.  The ACLU or even some private law firm could take the case.  To date there have been over 44 million dollars paid out to individuals that Joe Arpaio had had arrested, jailed, or otherwise mistreated.  This included newspaper reporters to Latinos who were born and live in Maricopa County.

 

One should also keep in mind that according to the July 1, 2016 Census the state of Arizona has, out of a population of 6,931,071, 30.9% Latinos.  We should also keep in mind that at that time 4.9% of the population was Black.  That means that just from his own state he had about two million, four hundred and ninety thousand people upon which to pick.  I would also suspect that even though the majority of the state votes mostly Republican there has been quite a lot of voter suppression.

 

A massive class-action law suit, particularly one in the billions of dollars, would send a very clear message throughout the United States.  If racial profiling became too expensive it would definitely be dropped throughout the nation.

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio is 85 years old.  He has been the country’s “toughest sheriff,” according to his own testimony, from 1993 through 2016, for 23 years.  He was voted out of office in 2016.  He had served 6 terms.

 

Starting in 2005 Arpaio took an outspoken stance against illegal immigration.  He is also known for his investigation of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.  After sending, at taxpayer expense, one or more investigators to Hawaii to examine the President’s birth certificate. Since they found one he claimed it was forged.

 

Arpaio has been accused of various types of police misconduct, including abuse of power, misuse of funds, failure to investigate sex crimes; improper clearance of cases, unlawful enforcement of immigration laws, and election law violations.  A Federal court monitor was appointed to oversee his office’s operations because of complaints of racial profiling.  The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Arpaio oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history and filed suit against him for unlawful discriminatory police conduct.

 

Over his law enforcement career Arpaio cost the county over 44 million dollars in lawsuits over illegal abuses perpetrated upon the press and citizens.  In essence Joseph Michael Arpaio ruled Maricopa County, Arizona like a little Hitler, interpreting the law to fit his prejudices.  This is the man that on August 25, 2017, President Donald Trump pardoned from a possible six month incarceration.

 

Despite numerous Court Orders to end racial profiling Joe Arpaio continued the process, essentially ignoring Court Orders.  In 2016 Arpaio lost the election for sheriff. The office went to the Democratic candidate, Paul Penzone with 56% of the vote.  Arpaio received 44%.  Apparently the sheriff wasn’t able to frighten away enough minority voters in that election.

 

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in another hearing said that evidence demonstrates that Arpaio’s “flagrant disregard” for another Judge’s order that halted Arpaio’s signature immigration roundups, was guilty of illegal action.  The sentencing phase was to begin October 5, 2017.  Arpaio faced up to six months in confinement for ignoring the order.  The contempt charge was a misdemeanor.  Since he had committed a Federal crime he presumably came under the jurisdiction of President Trump.  Trump pardoned him stating that he had spent years enforcing the laws and he should be rewarded not punished.

 

Why did Trump pardon Arpaio?  For one thing they had both several years earlier denounced President Barack Obama as not being born in the United States.  They had both presumably sent people to Hawaii to prove this, Arpaio literally and Trump only verbally.  In addition it would seem that Trump was sending a message to all his relatives and cohorts that if they were arrested and tried for any crimes he would pardon them.  This included any of his supporters who had had relations of any sort with Russia both before and during the Presidential Election of 2016.  It could include both family members and participants who helped him get elected.  The special counsel, Robert Mueller, has been investigating the election and has impounded two separate Grand Jurys.

 

According to John McCain, Joe Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt after illegally targeting Hispanics.  Trump’s pardon “willfully violated” a 2011 Court Order barring him from detaining individuals solely on suspicion about their legal status based solely on their ethnicity.  The President undermined professed respect for the rule of law.

 

McCain stated, “No one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold.  Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based upon their perceived immigration status in violation of the judge’s orders.”

 

Obviously the move was blatantly political.  Arizona’s leading newspaper as well as many others in the state denounced Trump’s move.  “The vast majority of Latinos in Arizona are not undocumented, yet they all fell under heightened scrutiny, “the editorial stated.

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Trump’s pardon occurred while a hurricane was approaching Huston, Texas.  The President announced it then, he said, because it would get the most media coverage at that time.

 

While the Constitution gives the President the pardoning power it does not define the extent of this power.  Trump apparently interpreted it to mean unlimited power to grant pardons.  But the Constitution was set up with a system of checks and balances which, in turn, keep any one segment of the Federal Government from taking over control.  There is an executive, a legislature, and a court system.  Each serves as a check upon the other two parts of the Federal Government.  When Trump pardoned Arpaio he encroached upon this system of checks and balances.

 

Arpaio was not forgiven for breaking a law, which he did do, but for invalidating a Court Contempt charge.  He pardoned a legal decision by a Judge.  In doing this he abrogated one of the checks and balances of our legal system.  Does he have the authority to do that?

 

Judge Susan Bolton of the U.S. District Court, handling the Arpaio’s case has cancelled a sentencing hearing for the former sheriff but stopped short of throwing out his conviction.  She stated that because a presidential pardon carries the implication of guilt she wants both Mr. Arpaio’s lawyers and the U.S. Department of Justice to submit briefs on why she should or should not vacate Mr. Arpaio’s conviction.  The arguments have been scheduled for October 4th.    She will make a decision at that time.

 

In addition House of Representatives Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are demanding a hearing on the Arpaio pardon.  Mr. Arpaio is also currently appealing his conviction.  Appeals and pardons cannot occur at the same time.  The case is far from being over.  It has yet to be determined if the pardon was legal.

 

Was the pardon legal?  The Constitution gives the pardoning power to the President.  It does not define that power.  Up to that decision all pardoning cases dealt with the breakage of a law brought into existence by the legislative body, Congress.  This case deals with a Court decision.  That power is inherent in the Constitution.  Does the President have the power to override a power given by the Constitution?  That ultimate decision rests with the Supreme Court, the ultimate definer of the Constitution.  Whatever Judge Susan Bolton decides, the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court.  There five Justices are conservative and four are liberal.  However two of the conservative Justices, Kennedy and Roberts, have occasionally voted with the four liberal ones.  In any case will the Supreme Court vote to limit its own power?

The Weiner Component #126 – The Current American Political System

On Thursday, June 4, 2015, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner for the 2016 Presidential nomination, at a speech at a Texas Southern University, a historic Black college in Huston, accused the GOP (Good Old Party) of dividing Americans over voting rights by attempting to limit the vote among minorities, racial and otherwise, the elderly, and the young, generally college students. Clinton stated that a group of current and former Republican governors have and are “systematically and deliberately” have tried to prevent millions of Americans from voting.

She cited Governor Chris Christie for vetoing a bill in New Jersey to extend early voting. Clinton said that then Governor Jeb Bush had conducted, just prior to the 2,000 Presidential Election, a “deeply flawed purge of eligible voters in Florida by having the names of people who were mistakenly thought to be felons removed from the voting rolls. She accused Scott Walker of Wisconsin of cutting early voting and making it harder for college students to vote. He also passed ID laws which tend to discriminate against minorities who don’t have the required identification.   Rick Perry of Texas, she stated, approved laws that mainly discriminated against minorities.

”It was the first time a presidential candidate had named her potential Republican rivals by name and criticized Governors Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, and Chris Christie.

She called for automatic registration for all people reaching the voting age of 18. This is similar to what presently exists in the state of Oregon, where anyone with a driver’s license from age 18 on is now automatically registered to vote and is mailed a ballot at election time. The choice to vote rests totally with the individuals.

The following day, Friday, June 5, a number of Republican governors verbally attacked Clinton for running a divisive campaign and favoring tax control on voting. Whatever that means?

The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, vociferously stated that Clinton didn’t know “the first thing about voting rights in New Jersey” and wanted to have an opportunity “to commit greater acts of voter fraud” around the country. Ohio governor John Kasich stated on Fox News that Clinton was “dividing America.”  Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker denounced her for denouncing him.

Basically the Republican argument is that they are fighting voter fraud.  Even though voter fraud is a small fraction of one percent of the millions of votes cast many Republicans know instinctively, with no other evidence, that that figure is wrong. They argue that what they are doing limits and virtually stops voter fraud.  Sometimes, I get the feeling that voter fraud, in their minds, is any vote cast that is not Republican.  It should also be noted that many Republicans have on occasion admitted publically that they are trying to suppress the vote.

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There are two major political parties in the United States that can successfully field a presidential election, since this means running fifty separate elections in each of the 50 states and separate federal elections for all the territories and the District of Columbia, with the exception of the island of American Samoa where the population consists of residents rather than citizens of the United States. These two major political parties are the Republican and Democratic Parties.  Of these the majority party is the Democratic one.

One of the major ways the Republicans have been successful in winning political elections has been by suppressing the vote of minorities, women, the aged, and college students. This has been done in numerous ways. Their object is to get certain groups, one way or another, not to vote.

Among the various dirty tricks used in suppressing the vote misinformation about voting procedures is not uncommon. In the recall election for the Wisconsin State Senate, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative organization that supported Republicans, sent many Democratic voters a mailing that gave incorrect deadlines for absentee ballots. Voters who relied on the deadline in the mailing sent their ballots in too late to be counted. The organization said that the mistake was a typographical error.

In the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election phone jamming scandal Republican officials attempted to reduce the number of Democratic voters by paying professional telemarketers in Idaho to make repeated hang-up calls to the telephone numbers used by the Democratic Party’s ride-to-the-polls phone line on election day.

In several states a private Republican group, Voters Outreach of America, which had been authorized in a number of states to register voters, collected and submitted Republican voter registration forms but discarded Democratic ones.  The Democratic voters discovered on Election Day that they were not registered and could not vote.

In the 2006 Virginia Senate Election Democratic voters received phone calls informing them that if they voted it would lead to arrest; there were numerous calls fraudulently claiming to be volunteers of the Democratic candidate falsely telling voters that their location had changed; fliers were issued in the Black communities, paid for by the Republican Party, stating, “Skip This Election.”

In the 2008 Presidential Election a review of states records by the New York Times found that there had been numerous illegal actions leading to voter purges.

In the United States there is partisan election administrations in 33 of the 50 states. The majority of the world’s democracies use independent agencies to monitor elections but not the U.S.  These party affiliations can and do create a conflict of interest.  For example, Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State served as state co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign during the Presidential Election of 2000.

In Georgia wait times of two to ten hours were reported during early voting at many locations.  In Florida this happened at multiple locations on Election Day during the 2012 Presidential Election.  Various factors, including the reduction of early voting days, reduction in the number of polling places, and an extremely long ballot that included numerous constitutional amendments all combine to add to long waiting times.  It is estimated that 201,000 potential Florida voters were unable to spend the hours needed to be able to vote and thus had their votes suppressed.

In the 2010 Maryland gubernatorial election the Republicans placed thousands of Election Day robocalls to Democratic voters telling them that the Democratic candidate had won, although the polls were still open for two more hours. The Republican phone call was worded as though it came from Democratic headquarters.  It told the Voters to relax, that everything was fine.  All they had to do was watch the victory on TV that night.  The phone calls reached 112,000 voters in the African-American areas of the state.

In 2011, the Republican campaign manager was convicted of fraud and other charges because of the calls. In 2012 he was sentenced to 30 days of home detention, a one year suspended jail sentence, and 50 hours of community service over a four year period of probation with no fine or jail time.

A Florida law, that has been repeated in a number of Republican dominated states, both reduced the number of days for early voting and barred voter-registration activities by such group as the League of Women Voters, teachers in high school and others, making it more difficult to register to vote in those states.

These constitutionally granted voting rights have been and are under nationwide attack, particularly in those states where the Republicans hold the governorship and control of the legislature. The laws lead to significant burdens for eligible voters. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls. It also includes dirty tricks. Democratic lawyers have filed legal challenges to voting changes, particularly in Ohio and Wisconsin.

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Among the various forms of voter suppression are photo ID laws. Supporters contend that the photo ID, such as state driver’s licenses or student IDs from state universities are nearly universal and that presenting them is a minor inconvenience, when weighed against voter fraud.  Opponents argue that these requirements disproportionally affect minority, handicapped, and elderly voters who do not normally maintain driver licenses. There is also almost no evidence of voter fraud.  Legislation to impose the restrictive IDs has been prepared by the conservative organization ALEC and sent to conservative state legislatures.

In the U.S. felons are disenfranchised.   In fact the United States is the only democracy in the world that regularly bans large numbers of felon from voting after they have served their sentence.  In 2004 5.3 million Americans were denied the right to vote because of previous felony convictions. Thirteen states permanently disenfranchise convicted felons, eighteen states restore voting rights when after completion of prison, parole, and probation time, four states re-enfranchise convicted felons after they have been released from prison and served their parole, thirteen states allow felons who have been released from prison to vote, and two states do not disenfranchise them at all. This form of voter suppression disproportionally affects minorities, particularly Blacks and Hispanics who it seems make up a good percentage of the prison population.

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In former Governor Rick Perry’s state, Texas, the voter suppression laws have wide sweeping effects. The U.S. Justice Department estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 Texans were disenfranchised of their vote by the Texas voter ID law implemented in 2014. While the law accepts seven forms of personal identification it was crafted to make sure that poor African Americans and Hispanics would have a very difficult time producing any of those forms of accepted ID.

The accepted forms of ID are: a concealed handgun license, a U.S. military identification card containing the person’s photograph, a U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph, a U.S. passport, a Texas driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), a Texas Election identification certificate issued by the DPS, and a Texas personal identification card issued by the DPS. In addition college student IDs are not acceptable forms of identification.

Poor people, as a rule, do not have concealed handgun licenses.  My birth certificate was issued at my birth; it does not contain my picture. The majority of young men do not join the military.  Many poor Texans do not have cars or driver licenses.  A passport cost money to acquire.  Of the other possibilities most poor workers, mainly African Americans and Hispanics do not possess those either.

The official state offices that issue these IDs are not located in every town, and those that exist do not operate every day of the week. None of them are open on weekends when people are off work.

Poor Texans living in a rural area need to take a day off work to go to a town or city where the Department of Public Safety offices exist and they have to pick a day when the office will be open.  If they can find or afford transportation it will take them at least three hours to get to a government office that will issue an ID if it is open and then after they finish it will take them at least three more hours to get home.  They will have lost at least a day’s pay.

The Federal Court in Corpus Christi declared the ID law unconstitutional, in 2014 a Federal judge struck down this law finding that the law was “an unconstitutional poll tax” that had “an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans;” but on appeal the more conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this decision.

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Voter disenfranchisement in the 2014 election was apparent; it will certainly be an issue in the 2016 Presidential Election.  Wherever possible various Democratic organizations will be and are bringing law suites to limit or stop this practice; but many of the federal judges were appointed by Republican presidents and are partial to Republican demands.  Such, obviously was the case in Texas.

In a number of 2014 races, like North Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and Florida, the margin of victory was very close to the margin of disenfranchisement.  With an honest election the results might have been the opposite.

A joint report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and the Southern Elections Foundation found that four out of five states that had introduced at least one new restrictive voting measure in 2014 “experienced sharp decreases in voter turnout from the 2010 midterm election, likely due, at least in part, to these laws that made it harder to vote in 2014.  33 states have recently introduced bills that would restrict access to voter registration.

Republican officials have admitted that their efforts are aimed at disenfranchising Democratic voters. In the spring of 2012 the Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, Mike Turzai, told a gathering of Republicans that their voter identification law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”  There have been numerous statements by Republicans before and since the above statement was made indicating that the voter identification laws are mainly a way to suppress the vote of Democratic voters.

Republican generally argue that restrictions on registering and voting are about the integrity of elections; but they have never been able to prove that any American election has been stolen by voter fraud, (at least by the Democrats).

There is an interesting note of irony here. The Caucasian or White population in the United States no longer makes up the majority of the population.  It is a large minority among other large minorities.  And every year its number shrinks in comparison to the other large minorities. How long can the Republican successfully play their games? Even with several million voters across the United States deprived of their vote Barak Obama won in 2012.  The same is true for a lot of local, state, and federal elections. The Republicans may feel they’re riding high at present but every year there are less and less of them in the overall population.  It would seem that compared to the rest of the population they are largely sterile.

 

November 4: Barack Obama elected President
November 4: Barack Obama elected President (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)