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Point/Counterpoint: Was President Trump right to pardon Sheriff Arpaio?

By: Elliot Fladen and Hugo Chavez-Rey
September 3, 2017 Updated: September 3, 2017 at 7:55 am
Caption +
FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2016 file photo, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of metro Phoenix, at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. President Donald Trump has pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio following his conviction for intentionally disobeying a judge's order in an immigration case. The White House announced the move Friday night, Aug. 25, 2017, saying the 85-year-old ex-sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County was a "worthy candidate" for a presidential pardon. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Elliot Fladen

Where does it stop?

Whether former Sheriff Joe Arpaio was right on immigration is irrelevant to the question of whether he deserved a pardon. Pardons are confessions of guilt under the Supreme Court case Burdick v. United States. Arpaio, however, has not admitted to anything. After being ordered by a federal court to stop detaining people solely based on his office's suspicion of their immigration status, he flouted the order. He even bragged about ignoring it to Univision, Fox, and PBS. After he was convicted of contempt for undermining the dignity of the federal court, he asked for a pardon, not out of penitence, but rather because he believed he was "100 percent not guilty." To be clear, Arpaio could be 100 percent right on immigration policy, and he still wouldn't have deserved a pardon on these facts. Yet President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio anyway. Maybe to play to his base, maybe to distract from other negative news, or maybe to send a message.

Where does it stop?

In the run up to his election and at a February 2016 Iowa rally, Trump promised to "pay for the legal fees" for anybody who would "knock the crap out" of a protester. He also remarked that he "could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and [he] wouldn't lose voters." Despite this, the American public voted him into office. And once in office, Trump has openly contemplated pardoning not only his family, but also himself, for apparent legal violations.

We are supposed to have a system of checks and balances, where the executive's power is limited by not only the legislature but also the judiciary. But what prevents a president from pardoning friends who refuse to abide by subpoenas of federal investigators? Or subordinates who may commit crimes to thwart a federal investigation? Remember, the old standard that a pardon applicant needs to be penitent for actions is out the window in the wake of Arpaio's pardon.

Instead, the only apparent check on a president's pardon power is Congress through impeachment. Even James Madison, in a letter to George Mason advocating the ratification of the Constitution despite the broad pardon power, argued that impeachment would be an appropriate remedy for an improper pardon. But this Congress has made clear that no matter how many constitutional or legal violations the president appears to commit - from improper receipt of emoluments to obstruction of justice - it will not seriously consider impeachment. The reason is not tough to see: with gerrymandering, the biggest threat to many sitting congressmen is not the other party but a primary challenger. And threatening to impeach the president is hardly going to play well in most majority Republican districts.

Where does it stop?

The answer, my fellow citizens, is it does not stop. If our partisan representatives place avoiding a primary challenge over preserving our constitutional framework, our system will continue to erode towards being a pseudo-banana republic. May the framers of our system forgive us for our inaction and indifference.


Hugo Chavez-Rey

President Donald Trump pardons Joe Arpaio and the left becomes unhinged. Nothing new there.

What is interesting though, is how the left-wing media outlets ignore the good reasons why Sheriff Joe Arpaio deserved a pardon.

Arpaio was "convicted" by a federal (activist) judge in July of criminal contempt after being charged with violating an (unlawful and unconstitutional) court order that was aimed at preventing the sheriff's traffic patrol officers from "targeting" suspected illegal aliens. The sheriff responded by stating, truthfully, that "targeting" was not the focus.

The part being ignored is that the sheriff was convicted not by a jury of his peers, but by the activist federal judge who issued the unlawful "order" in the first place. How convenient. The judge acted as judge, jury, and executioner. Is that what judges are supposed to do? This Hispanic immigrant doesn't think so.

This was a political witch hunt from the outset. Leftist activists sought out, as they normally do, an activist liberal judge who would agree to go after the sheriff, even though the sheriff, unlike so many others around the country who refuse to do their jobs in regards to illegal immigrants, was only doing his job as an elected law enforcement official.

The sheriff's crime? Following the law. What a concept for a law enforcement officer. He dedicated his life to enforcing the law and protecting the citizens of Maricopa County, and no reasonable juror in that county would have convicted him of a crime based on the evidence presented. But that didn't stop the activist judge. The judge's verdict was an utter travesty of justice.

Arpaio's critics have accused the sheriff of being a racist and biased against Hispanics. But as usual, the truth never gets in the way of the left when they have a target in mind. Under Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa Sheriff Department had the highest percentage of Hispanic deputies, detention officers and staff personnel in Arizona. He also promoted more Hispanic officers to command positions than any other law enforcement agency in the state. I have never heard of a "racist" doing that.

The bottom line is that the pro-illegal immigration crowd has been labeling Sheriff Arpaio a "racist" for years. Of course, labeling anyone who upholds immigration law a racist is a failed strategy, but it is typical; when you can't argue the merits, play the race card.

President Trump, after reviewing the real facts, saw that the sheriff was only doing his job, following the law and protecting those who elected him to office time after time. He saw that the case against the sheriff was politically motivated from the start. The president acted within his power and granted a pardon to an 85-year-old man who has dedicated his life to enforcing the law.

We at Colorado Hispanic Republicans agree and support the decision of President Trump to pardon the sheriff, and we applaud his courage to take action despite the potential negative reaction, including some from Republicans.

The critics should be more concerned about some of the pardons issued by both previous two Democrat presidents. If they want to scrutinize presidential pardons, they should begin there.


Elliot Fladen is an attorney. His website is, and he lives in Lone Tree. Hugo Chavez-Rey is the chairman of the Colorado Hispanic Republicans. He lives in Denver.

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