One Pardoned, One Fired: Trump’s Revolving Door of Racists Keeps Spinning
Like most decent and compassionate people, you probably spent last night focused on the impending landfall of Hurricane Harvey, which places thousands of Texans in danger of flooding, losing their homes, and weeks-long displacement. However, where most people see a humanitarian crisis, the Trump administration sees a PR opportunity – and they took advantage of the hurricane news cycle to bury a number of their own news releases.
The first is that Trump has pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the notoriously inhumane and racist former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, whose department was found guilty of racial profiling in 2013 in a civil court and convicted of criminal contempt in July of 2017. The second is that Sebastian L. v. Gorka, the “terrorism expert” who’s been seen sporting both a questionable PhD and Nazi-linked insignia, has been forced from the White House.
The pardoning of Arpaio is genuinely unconscionable, a true abuse of power in the service of a racist who flouted the rule of law. In a civil suit brought by the ACLU, Arpaio’s department was found guilty in 2013 of racially profiling Latino drivers; based simply on their race, or the fact that they were speaking Spanish, they were detained under suspicion of being in the country illegally. A judge ordered Arpaio to stop “detaining, holding, or arresting Latino occupants of vehicles in Maricopa County based on a reasonable belief, without more, that such persons were in country without authorization.” However, Arpaio publicly declared his intent to flout that ruling, multiple times, and so he was found guilty of criminal contempt of court in 2017.
Arpaio was also widely criticized for allowing child sex abuse cases to languish, falsely arresting journalists for their coverage of him, and overseeing brutal prison conditions that included segregation of Latinos, denial of medical care to pregnant women, civil rights violations against Spanish speakers, Eighth Amendment violations for “cruel and unusual punishment,” and a high inmate death rate. I recommend you read Politico‘s “The Joe Arpaio I Knew,” for a searing look at his career.
It’s disgusting that Trump tried to bury this pardon in the middle of hurricane coverage – but as some commenters have pointed out, the American public weren’t really the intended audience for this pardon. Racists who work in law enforcement were. This is a pardon that’s meant to communicate the impunity to discriminate and brutalize, and I have do doubt the message will make it to them.
Meanwhile, one week after Steve Bannon left the White House, “national security advisor”/deputy assistant Gorka was also forced out. He officially filed a resignation letter, but a White House official offered an official statement that he “did not resign,” suggesting Gorka was actually forced out. In his resignation letter, Gorka wrote: “Regrettably, outside of yourself [Trump], the individuals who most embodied and represented the policies that will ‘Make America Great Again,’ have been internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months.” He cited the wording of a recent speech, in which “those who drafted and approved the speech removed any mention of Radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism, prov[ing] that a crucial element of your presidential campaign has been lost.”
Despite frequently writing up Islamophobic conspiracy theories for Breitbart and fear-mongering on Fox News, Gorka had questionable qualifications that drove even his own PhD adviser to declare: “I would not call him an expert on terrorism…his level of expertise does not match the level where he stands in the White House.” He has also appeared while wearing a medal from the Vitézi Rend, a Hungarian order that was heavily implicated in the antisemitism and murders of the Holocaust.
I’m relieved that both Gorka and Bannon are away from the impressionable, bigoted president. One prays that Miller is next. But it’s frightening that the one constant in the troubled Trump administration, with its many resignations, bitter in-fights, and legally questionable legislation, is the presence of unapologetic racists.
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