Washington, D.C., August 29, 2017 – In the latest edition of Yeomans Work, “Trump’s Political Arpaio Pardon Could Presage More,” AFJ’s Ronald Goldfarb Fellow for Justice, Bill Yeomans, warns that President Trump’s politically-motivated pardon of “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio sends a clear signal to other political supporters – especially those implicated in the Russia investigation. Yeomans writes:
“Trump’s pardon of the odious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, racial profiler, torturer, and enemy of the rule of law, was a flagrant abuse of the pardon power for political gain. Trump spoke to the sizable portion of his base that thrives on anti-immigrant, racist, tough-guy messaging. The far larger impact, however, may lie in the message it sends to subjects of the Russia investigation and the further evidence it provides of Trump’s willingness to use the powers of the presidency to obstruct justice…Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and assorted other Trump associates and family members will sleep better knowing he has their backs. They should feel reassured that they can lie to investigators with impunity, so long as they protect Trump.”
Yeomans notes that presidential pardon power has been used appropriately in the past to help the nation move past a political crisis, or when a person’s sentence has been unduly harsh. Rarely has it been used for political advantage, he writes, with one notable exception being President George H.W. Bush’s pardon of six individuals involved in the Iran/Contra scandal: an instance in which Bush’s own complicity could have come to light had prosecutions gone forward. Trump’s early-term and nakedly political wielding of pardon power stands out, and is another example of Trump’s disregard for the rule of law.