John Oliver on the Implications of Trump's Pardon of Joe Arpaio


Joe Arpaio, 85, former sheriff of Maricopa County where Phoenix is located, had been found guilty by a federal judge of criminal contempt of court and was awaiting sentencing. The former sheriff was convicted of criminal contempt in July for refusing to abide by an injunction ordering his office to cease operations related to the detention of undocumented immigrants.

Arpaio's lawyers asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to vacate the conviction in late August, after the former sheriff received a pardon from President Donald Trump.

Now, the Justice Department says Arpaio's case should be dismissed as moot.

"Having accepted the presidential pardon, defendant now moves to vacate the verdict and all other orders and to dismiss this case with prejudice", the DOJ wrote.

Second, the amicus brief argues that the pardon violates the principle that Article III courts have a duty to provide effective redress when a public official violates the Constitution. It lays out three arguments for challenging the pardon.

Arpaio and a former county attorney who was later disbarred for corruption teamed up to investigate and prosecute several public officials in the Phoenix area, almost all of which were either dismissed or acquitted.

Unlike Trump's stated rationale for pardoning Arpaio, "he was not 'just doing his job, ' Oliver said".

A pardon does not wipe away a conviction, and the Justice Department does not have authority to do so.

Third, Protect Democracy argues that "the Arpaio Pardon violates the separation of powers because it unconstitutionally interferes with the inherent powers of the Judicial Branch". "To paraphrase Daniel Webster, the power to pardon defiance of constitutional rights is the power to destroy those rights".

Most people who are granted pardons or other types of executive clemency have already been sentenced and spent time in jail. The brief, for example, goes out of its way to remind us that "presidents may only pardon federal offenses, not state offenses".

In addition, the purported pardon violates two basic constitutional principles. "The President can not use the pardon power to invite other public officials to violate people's constitutional rights".