Donald Trump obviously believes that he will gain some political capital from stepping into the Joe Arpaio legal controversy, though it is difficult to see where that will come from. He already has a quarter of the US electorate in his pocket, people who identify with his illiberal nationalism and xenophobia or have an exaggerated anti-establishment view of Washington (and perhaps not unfairly, in the latter case). However there are precious few beyond that hardcore base who will welcome the news that the president has pardoned the disreputable former Arizona sheriff, dismissing his self-publicised record of illegality and ill-treatment of prisoners. Most Americans will be dismayed or appalled by it. Meanwhile Trump’s sternest critics in Congress and beyond, from the centrist-right to the far left, will be brought closer together.
Or is there another target audience for the president’s dramatic intervention? Those associates and officials under investigation in relation to his dodgy business and personal dealings with the Russian Federation? Is this a message saying: don’t worry, hang tough, because I have a get out of jail free card for each and every one of you?
From the Guardian:
Donald Trump has pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio, the hardline Arizona lawman who was convicted of contempt of court in July for defying a judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinos.
Trump had signaled his intention to grant the pardon at a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday evening, when he suggested Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job”.
Over Arpaio’s 24-year tenure as sheriff of Maricopa county, he gained notoriety for detaining hundreds of undocumented immigrants in a Tent City jail and forcing them to wear pink underwear. The sheriff courted controversy and media attention – calling his own jail a “concentration camp”, serving inmates just two meals a day and selling replica pink underwear to the public – as he became a national figurehead for the virulent xenophobia that Trump embraced in his presidential campaign.