OPINION: Trump’s pardon of ex-sheriff bolsters racist rhetoric


Ben Hummel

By BEN HUMMEL Opinion Editor

The United States’ political turbulence has only intensified this summer. 

The shell-shock is building to a point where the continuous blunders of the executive branch may finally blow the cap off of the troubled Trump presidency.

Just more than a week ago, the nation was met with highly controversial statements from President Donald Trump about the Charlottesville protests in which he showed equivocality toward white supremacists. 

His response drew intense criticism from both sides.

As if to follow that up, Trump has once again stunned the nation with the Aug. 25 pardon of Joe Arpaio.

In both Trump’s comments on Charlottesville and in his pardon of Arpaio, it is apparent the rights of racial minorities are not as important to his administration as protecting bigots who pose a very real and immediate danger to them.

At Charlottesville, a large group of white supremacist and anti-semitic groups gathered with weapons.

Arpaio used brutal tactics to find and arrest illegal immigrants during his time as Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. 

As of July 31, he was found guilty of criminal contempt for refusing to stop racial profiling and arresting Hispanics on suspicion they were residing in the country illegally.

The ex-sheriff faced a sentence of up to six months in jail beginning Oct. 1, but was granted the presidential pardon late Friday night. 

Trump hinted he was considering the pardon at a campaign rally earlier that week.

 In addition, aides close to him said the president sought advice on whether it would be advantageous for him to drop Arpaio’s case.

Trump is lawfully excusing a former officer of the law who acted lawlessly, and many legal analysts say this represents something of a paradox. 

This could constitute as “presidential contempt for the Constitution,” Harvard law professor Noah Feldman said in an article he wrote for the Bloomfield View. 

Despite outcries, whether the power of the presidential pardon is limited should not be argued. 

Quite frankly, it isn’t. 

It can literally apply to any known violation in the United States, and has been given unlimited power by the Constitution.

But an interesting caveat is presidential pardons are usually only issued after the accused accepts responsibility for their actions, or even after they have served part of their sentence. 

In practically every instance, clemency presented on behalf of the president is usually a gesture of forgiveness.

In the case of Joe Arpaio, who has not expressed any remorse regarding his actions in contempt of an issued court order to cease and desist racial profiling, Trump is sending a message. 

The message is this: The rule of the law only matters to Trump when it benefits his agenda, and when it doesn’t, it becomes extremely malleable.

After his tone-deaf statement on the protests in Charlottesville, each missed opportunity to effectively condemn the repugnant figures who openly invoke his name reinforces doubts in his ability to lead. 

This shouldn’t be an issue. Denouncing the actions of Nazis and tyrannical authority figures is integral to our culture, and should not have to be coaxed out of our president.

The moment that becomes apparent to President Trump, that regains faith from those who believe he is unfit for office.


Benjamin Hummel is the Opinion Editor at The Collegian and can be reached at [email protected].