Many observers might be tempted to dismiss Donald Trump's promise (and it was a promise - Trump said on August 22 that Arpaio could "feel good" about the pardon issue but that the night of Trump's Phoenix speech was not the right time to issue the pardon) to pardon former Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for his federal criminal contempt of court conviction as just another racist dogwhistle thrown out to get cheers from an anti-immigrant white crowd of Trump's base supporters.

But Chiraag Bains, a former federal prosecutor and and senior counsel in the Justice Department's civil rights division who is now a senior fellow at Harvard Law School's Criminal Justice policy program, warns in an August 24 piece in The Guardian that Trump's threat to pardon Arpaio is much more ominous than that. A pardon would continue Trump's policy of undermining the independence of the judiciary in order to promote his racially oriented anti- immigrant agenda, thereby striking a blow at the heart of American democracy. See:

Why Donald Trump's plans to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio are so troubling

Bains, who served in the DOJ for seven years, from 2010 to 2017, writes, regarding the background of Arpaio's criminal conviction:

"For years, Arpaio pursued a discriminatory policy of stopping and holding people for whom there was no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. A federal court ordered him to stop in 2011, but he continued to detain people unlawfully for another 17 months.

Last month, a different federal judge found Arpaio guilty of willfully defying the court order - a criminal charge that was fairly easy to establish, given that Arpaio repeatedly bragged to national media outlets: 'I'm not going to give it up' and 'nothing has changed'. In short, Arpaio's disregard for the law was flagrant and sustained."

Bains then goes on to explain the significance of Arpaio's open defiance of the federal court order:

"Moreover, Arpaio's criminal activity goes to the heart of our system of constitutional rights and accountability. Private plaintiffs and the justice department sued him for violating the constitution. A court enjoined his illegal conduct. He then flouted the court's order - repeatedly. Our system of rights and limited government works only if those in power follow judicial orders or are held accountable for violating them."

I will continue with my discussion of Chiraag Bains' article about the dangers that Trump's issuing a pardon to Joe Arpaio would pose to America's judicial system, and our democracy, in my next comment on this topic, to appear shortly.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law