The President has pardoned Joe Arpaio. Arpaio has been found guilty of criminal contempt of court, and faced up to six months in prison, for willfully violating a court order instructing him not to detain immigrants who were not suspected of any crime. He wasn’t sorry.
The message to racist public officials could not be more clear: it’s open season. If you’re on the wrong side of a racist vigilante sheriff, having the law on your side is no protection at all; you have been warned.
Perhaps there’s another audience for this message as well. Now we know—if we had any doubts—that Trump will use his pardon power to reward personal loyalty to Trump. If you’re being questioned in the Russia investigation, don’t worry about being charged with obstruction of justice or perjury. The rule of law is suspended until further notice.
Update:Joe Arpaio’s history of official abuse is not short. False arrests of reporters, inmate deaths, rapes unprosecuted, a federal judge investigated. This is what Trump considers worthy of a pardon.
It doesn’t matter that several Republican elected officials are now saying mean things about Trump. It doesn’t matter that Bannon is out. It doesn’t matter whether a resolution of censure passes Congress. It doesn’t even matter whether Republicans in the House vote with Democrats to impeach this President and Republicans in the Senate vote to convict. There’s nothing the Republican Party can do to escape the moral stain of having been the party of fascism.
When the rewriting of the history of this era gets underway in earnest, remember: even if Trump is eventually discarded by the Republican Party, it was the Republican Party who created him, backed him, elected him, enabled him. There are plenty of Republicans waiting in the wings who are just as racist as Trump, just as misogynist as Trump, just as eager to cut taxes on the rich as Trump, just as willing to make Christianity the state religion, just as willing to start another war, just as willing to protect corporations and unleash brutal cops and intimidate the press and promote lynching. Fixing Trump is not fixing the fact that one of the major political parties in the U.S. is now fascist, and permanently discredited.
Trump gave a half-hearted denunciation of racist, swastika-wearing, Nazi-saluting white supremacists on Monday, days after one of them murdered an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville. And if you think “half-hearted” is unfair, look at what he said today.
In a long, combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower, the president repeatedly rejected a torrent of bipartisan criticism for waiting several days before naming the right-wing groups and placing blame on “many sides” for the violence that ended with the death of a young woman after a car crashed into a crowd.
Mr. Trump repeated that assertion on Tuesday, criticizing “alt-left” groups that he claimed were “very, very violent” when they sought to confront the nationalist and Nazi groups that had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park. He said there is “blame on both sides.”
Sounding very much like a right-wing Twitter feed, the president added, “Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
Trump went on to defend the tiki-torch-wielding racists who gathered on Friday night, before saying, in reference to the racist activists, “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.” …
He actually argued that there were “very fine people on both sides” and that he believes “there’s blame on both sides.”
If that sounds like a message white supremacists will be thrilled to hear, we don’t need to speculate: David Duke has already thanked Trump for this afternoon’s comments.
Donald Trump has canceled all press events today. Yesterday, he ran from reporters who asked him to call terrorism “terrorism.” Donald Trump, the “alpha” whose campaign dared Democrats to condemn “radical Islamic terrorism,” who finds it easy to condemn department stores and TV networks and Hollywood actresses in intemperate language, that man cannot find it in himself to risk the ire of his base by calling white supremacist terror “white supremacist terror.”
Donald Trump’s cowardice has made the Republican Party into the murderers’ party, the lynchers’ party, the party that stands idly by while their supporters murder anti-racists. The party that is, just maybe, a little happy to see it happen.
The President of the United States has condemned…both sides. He is not in the habit of condemning violence, of course, inciting it is more his style. Now that the logical consequences are here, he suddenly doesn’t want the credit.