The White House announced on Friday that it was pardoning longtime Trump supporter and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the controversial Arizona lawman known for profiling Latinos. Arpaio once bragged that he ran his open-air tent city jail like a “concentration camp.” Arpaio was first elected in 1992 and voted out of office in November after years of civil rights complaints and corruption allegations. In July, a federal judge found Arpaio guilty of contempt of court for defying an order to stop his deputies from detaining people based on their perceived immigration status. He faced up to six months in prison at his sentencing, originally set for October 5. While pardons are usually granted to those facing felony charges, Arpaio was convicted of a misdemeanor and had not submitted an application for pardon. In a two-paragraph statement, the White House said Arpaio gave “years of admirable service to our nation.” The Phoenix-based immigrant rights group Puente said Arpaio’s pardon sent a clear message that it’s “OK to break the law as long as it’s to further a white supremacist agenda.” We speak with Linda Valdez, an editorial board member and columnist at the Arizona Republic, the state’s largest newspaper. After Trump pardoned Arpaio, she wrote an editorial for the paper headlined “Donald Trump Just Resurrected Joe Arpaio from Irrelevance.”
AMY GOODMAN: As we move now into our last segment, this top news—what would have been top news on Friday, if it weren’t for the storm. Renée?
RENÉE FELTZ: That’s right, Amy. We turn now to the White House pardon announced Friday for longtime Trump supporter and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The controversial Arizona lawman, known for profiling Latinos, once bragged that he ran his open-air jail, called Tent City, in Phoenix like a, quote, “concentration camp.” Arpaio was first elected in 1992 and voted out of office in November last year after years of civil rights complaints and corruption allegations.
AMY GOODMAN: In July, a federal judge found Arpaio guilty of contempt of court for defying an order to stop his deputies from detaining people based on their perceived immigration status. He faced up to six months in prison at his sentencing, which was originally set for October 5th. In a two-paragraph statement, President Trump said Arpaio gave, quote, “years of admirable service to our nation.” Arpaio responded to the news Saturday.
JOE ARPAIO: I’m very happy. I have to thank the president of the United States for his pardon. As I say, he’s a big friend, a supporter of law enforcement. I think this is a bigger picture than just me.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Tucson, Arizona, where we’re joined by Linda Valdez, an editorial board member and columnist at the Arizona Republic, the state’s largest newspaper. After President Trump pardoned Sheriff Arpaio, she wrote an editorial for the paper headlined “Donald Trump Just Resurrected Joe Arpaio from Irrelevance.”
Linda Valdez, thanks so much for joining us. In these last few minutes, first respond to what message this sends, and then talk about Sheriff Arpaio’s history and what he did, this whole issue of racial profiling and racial harassment.
LINDA VALDEZ: Well, as far as the message that it sends, it sends a very clear message that Donald Trump is not interested in being the president of all the people of this country. He’s interested in being president of a very small Republican base that put him in office. It’s the same group of people that has been Joe Arpaio’s base of support for many, many years. And it’s is a very troubling message.
It’s also a message that says that the president of the United States does not respect the Constitution and the requirement that all people be treated equally under the Constitution. And he doesn’t have much respect for the judicial branch of government, because that process, the process under which Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court, that was a judicial process that had been going on for years and years. It had not reached its conclusion, as you pointed out. He was due to be sentenced in October. And by short-circuiting that process, Trump showed contempt for the judiciary system. He showed contempt for the people that took that case to court and sought redress under the law. And he showed contempt for Latinos in Arizona and elsewhere, saying that it is OK to racially profile certain people. But he also showed contempt for all Americans by saying the Constitution isn’t what it says it is.
RENÉE FELTZ: I want to ask you about a comment by Arizona senator and former Republican presidential candidate, John McCain. He issued this statement that said, quote, “The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.” Meanwhile, Arpaio told your newspaper, the Arizona Republic, in an interview Friday, that he would not have handled his immigration sweeps any differently, saying, quote, “My guys did nothing wrong, and I didn’t do anything wrong.” Your response?
LINDA VALDEZ: Well, my response is that that’s been Arpaio’s MO since the beginning. He is very much like Donald Trump. He does not admit that he makes mistakes. And as far as John McCain’s quote, it’s right on target. I mean, John McCain has—gets things right. And as far as Trump is concerned, he’s been right more than he’s been wrong on this issue.
And I just wanted to address the point that the president made in his pardon that Arpaio has given a lot of service. The 20 years that he was sheriff of Maricopa County were not good years, as far as a lawman is concerned. He devoted a great deal of energy to his immigration sweeps, which were racially profiling Latinos. In the process, he diverted resources and funding from other important law enforcement processes. There were 400-and-plus sexual assault cases that were not investigated by his department. That was brought to light by several media outlets, one of which won a Pulitzer for it.
He continued to be re-elected, which is something I think you need—where he and Donald Trump are very similar, in the people that they appeal to, their inability to express remorse and the fact that their supporters really don’t care about what they do. They are supporting—they are supporting people who do not respect all the people equally in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Clearly, Sheriff Arpaio was a very early supporter of Donald Trump. I think Donald Trump brought him up to Iowa. Donald Trump was sending a very significant message here, as he sends out this pardon, aside from talking about what kind of law he wants enforced and not enforced. Linda Valdez, do you think there was something strategic about this, a message to people who may be being investigated right now by Mueller and others—you know, subpoenas going out—that there is a pardon out there for those that support him?
LINDA VALDEZ: Well, that’s certainly been suggested, and it certainly would be logical. I think that Trump did send a message that he will stand by the people that are loyal to him. And it is a chilling message that even if the judicial system finds someone culpable, the president doesn’t care.
So I think it is—and it’s also a good distraction. Trump is doing a lot of things to distract people from the Russia investigation and keep his populism going, which is another thing he has in common with Arpaio, is that appeal to the populist base, and basically saying, “My people will support me no matter what.” And both of them have said that.
RENÉE FELTZ: Linda, I want to jump in on that point.
LINDA VALDEZ: And it seems to be true in both cases. Yes?
RENÉE FELTZ: In our last 20 seconds, I want to jump in on that point. Since the pardon, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in an interview with the Associated Press and your newspaper that he may jump back into politics. Do you think he has a chance?
LINDA VALDEZ: Well, he’s 85 years old. He’s been talking for years about running for governor. He’s never done it. In Arizona, I think he may be a spent force, which was our point in the editorial. He was really past—we had recognized here that he was a destructive force. But one never knows these days in politics. You know, Donald Trump proves the old saying, “Anybody can be president.” Proves it in not a very good way, I would say.
AMY GOODMAN: Linda Valdez, we want to thank you for being with us, editorial board member, columnist at the Arizona Republic, the state’s largest newspaper. After President Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, she wrote an editorial. We’ll link to that. “Donald Trump Just Resurrected Joe Arpaio from Irrelevance.” Linda Valdez is a Pulitzer Prize finalist.