Critics: Pardon is latest affront against judiciary
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio shows a lack of regard for an independent judiciary, say critics who note Trump’s past criticism of federal judges. Supporters counter that the veteran law enforcement officer deserved America’s gratitude, “not the injustice of a political witch hunt.”
Reaction was sharp and swift, including among some fellow Republicans with whom Trump has been feuding openly.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., signaled his disagreement through his spokesman. “Law-enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States,” Ryan spokesman Doug Andres said in a statement. “We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who incurred Trump’s wrath after voting against a Republican health care bill, said: “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.”
Trump has rooted openly for Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who said, “America owes Sheriff Arpaio a debt of gratitude and not the injustice of a political witch hunt.”
Jens David Ohlin, vice dean and professor at Cornell Law School, said he was disturbed by the pardon.
“Ever since the campaign and the beginning of his administration he’s had a very contentious relationship with the judiciary and hasn’t shown much respect for either members of the judiciary or the proper role of the judiciary within our constitutional structure,” Ohlin said. During the campaign, Trump called Chief Justice John Roberts “an absolute disaster” and “disgraceful,” for two opinions that left President Barack Obama’s health care law intact. Trump also went after U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who presided over fraud lawsuits against Trump University. Trump said Curiel couldn’t be fair to Trump because of Curiel’s “Mexican heritage.”
Trump also referred to U.S. District Judge James Robart as a “so-called judge” after Robart imposed a temporary halt on Trump’s travel ban.