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Mueller Moves to Prevent Presidential Pardon

The pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was seen as bizarre, unless it’s seen as a message to Trump associates. That message is, “don’t worry—and don’t turn on each other—I’ll ‘take care of’ my friends.” In other words, if Trump associates are investigated, they don’t need to seek deals with the prosecution, because Trump has the power to overrule the courts. Perhaps because of that, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is teaming up with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Why? Because a president can’t pardon someone convicted of a state crime.

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The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get [former Trump campaign manager, Paul] Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes. . .

State and federal prosecutors believe the prospect of a presidential pardon could affect whether Manafort decides to cooperate with investigators in the federal Trump investigation, said one of the people familiar with the matter. . .

The attorney general won a $25 million settlement last November after a lengthy investigation into allegedly fraudulent practices at Trump University. . .

The conservative RedState says that Mueller’s involving Schneiderman could be a positive for Trump, since Trump might claim it shows that this is all a political witch hunt by Republican Mueller. But, on the other hand, Trump has a history of throwing people under the bus, so to speak. So Trump may just let Manafort “swing slowly in the wind,” as Richard Nixon tried to blame Watergate on his aide, John Dean.

Trump has a history of cutting loose anyone who causes him too much PR grief. . .it is certainly within reason that Trump would say nothing about the partnership between the two.

…Of course, within reason is the operative phrase here. This is Trump.

Schneiderman has publicly fought Trump and his policies, which in Trump’s eyes is akin to attacking him personally. So it is not unreasonable to expect an early-morning rant on Twitter from the President calling out this totally unfair investigation. In fact, by the time this post goes up, I imagine we’re an hour or two away at most from that happening.

Back to Arpaio, the pardon has not been welcomed by many conservatives. Business Insider says Arpaio’s actions actually made crime worse in Arizona.

Former Mesa Police Chief George Gascón. . .said Arpaio’s fixation with arresting undocumented immigrants left the sheriff’s office drained of resources that were necessary to investigate crimes.

Gascónon also said that during his tenure at the Mesa police department between 2006 and 2009, his city saw a reduction in both violent and property crime. Yet just across the city lines, in the areas of Maricopa County that were policed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “crime consistently went up,” Gascón said.

A report by the conservative, Arizona-based Goldwater Institute partly confirmed Gascón’s analysis, determining that reported violent crimes in Maricopa County rose by 69% and homicides leapt 166% between 2004 and 2007, meanwhile Mesa’s violent crime rate dropped by 11% and its homicide rate remained stable.

And Arpaio’s obsession with immigration didn’t just cause increased crime in his county. The sheriff is accused of other misconduct.

In November 2004, Arpaio won re-election. . .“Those who worked to re-elect the sheriff moved into more prized positions.”. . .

The sheriff’s office had long feuded with the Phoenix New Times. . .In August 2007, the agency’s top commanders teamed with local prosecutors to subpoena seemingly every document inside the newsroom. . .Worse yet, the sheriff’s office wanted information on the newspaper’s readers, including “every individual who looked at any story, review, listing, classified, or retail ad over a period of years.”. . .

In July 2008, the East Valley Tribune published a multipart investigation of the sheriff’s office’s immigration enforcement and overall police work. The agency’s arrest rate had plummeted, emergency response times soared, deputies were shelving sex crime cases without investigation, and the immigration arrests often involved unconstitutional practices. Arpaio was also using the immigration operations as a form of patronage. . .

Maricopa County taxpayers spent roughly $92 million on court settlements, awards, and legal bills during Arpaio’s 24 years as sheriff, The Arizona Republic calculated. Of that, $28 million was paid for “legal matters listed as civil-rights violations, false arrest, conspiracy and malicious prosecution.” And $30 million was spent on lawsuits stemming from the county’s jails.

It’s also important to note that the American people were overwhelmingly against the pardon of Arpaio, according to the conservative Washington Examiner.

According to an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll released Thursday, 60 percent of Americans said Trump did the “wrong thing” by pardoning Arpaio. Thirty-four percent said granting the former sheriff a pardon was the “right thing.”

The conservative National Review says the pardon was, well, stupid.

I want to home in on the decidedly unpresidential impulsiveness of the pardon. I happen to believe Arpaio, formerly the top lawman in Maricopa County, Ariz., was a very undeserving pardon candidate. But even if one believed he was a fitting candidate, pardoning him at this stage was rash. . .

Consequently, the president’s issuance of a pardon, which aborts the appellate process, is inexplicable. Even if Trump was convinced that Arpaio deserved clemency. . .the pardon was wrong and politically fraught. . .

Every sign said that pardoning Sheriff Arpaio would be a bad thing to do, and that last week would be a gratuitously bad time to do it. Because he either is too impetuous to stop himself or cares only about retaining the shrinking core of his most rabid supporters, Trump did it anyway. That does not augur good times ahead.

Meanwhile, business publication Forbes warns that we may be headed for a constitutional crisis.

Trump’s Friday pardon of Joe Arpaio. . .is a dangerous step in the direction of a constitutional crisis in the United States. . .Because of its unusual character, Trump’s pardon is not only a political act, but also a challenge to the legal system. . .

This decision sets a dangerous precedent in that it undermines the predictability of the legal system. The predictability of how the law will be applied is a hallmark of a free society and what differentiates it from a tyranny. . .

A power struggle between the executive and judicial arms of the U.S. government is a crisis American society cannot afford.

Goethe Behr: Goethe Behr is a Contributing Editor and Moderator at Election Central. He started out posting during the 2008 election, became more active during 2012, and very active in 2016. He has been a political junkie since the 1950s and enjoys adding a historical perspective.

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  • Is there any more proof needed that Robert Mueller is on nothing more than an expensive witch hunt. The next thing I am going to read is that Donald J Trump will be prosecuted for spitting on the sidewalk. Things have gotten that petty.?

    I am wondering exactly how long the American people are going to put up with this foolishness. That the AG from a state like New York is joining Mueller just goes to prove that the left wing nutjobs will try to find any fault, no matter how miniscule, to attack.?

  • In the 1990s, Sheriff Arpaio opened his Tent City jail, which housed inmates of Mexican heritage in an outdoor complex of Korean War era military tents during 120-degree Arizona summers. Inmates at the jail were clothed in pink underwear—“Why give them a color they like?” Arpaio said in a 2014 interview. Prisoners were sent to clean up public areas in literal chain gangs. He seemed to take pleasure in making life as intolerable as possible for the people in his jail, once bragging that “it costs more to feed the dogs than it does the inmates.” Arpaio instructed his deputies to detain Hispanic residents and inquire about their legal status and to put them in jail. His fanatical obsession with immigration cost Phoenix millions of dollars, his overtime spending on immigration enforcement led to a budget crisis, and legal fees for lawsuits about his policies cost taxpayers $142 million. Arpaio disregarded a federal judge's ruling that he didn't have the legal authority to do the above.
    Arpaio received a very light jail sentence of several months for disregarding the judge’s ruling. And Trump came to his rescue. Arpaio lost his last election bid.