Email #264: “administer justice fairly”?

I wrote to you on August 16th asking if you would oppose President Trump if he pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio for criminal contempt. Arpaio was convicted after openly disobeying a court order to stop targeting individuals solely because they looked Latino, a policy that resulted in illegally detaining citizens and legal residents.

After the President announced that he will pardon Arpaio, Speaker Paul Ryan’s office responded with appropriate concern: “Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”

Republican Governor Kasich criticized the pardon too: “I wouldn’t have done it this way. It should be out of bounds for somebody to use that as a sort of political wedge.”

The pardon is especially concerning because it breaks with the tradition of all previous Presidential pardons. Typically the convicted individual shows remorse. This pardon instead bolster’s Arpaio’s contempt by supporting him. Pardons also traditionally follow a months-long and often years-long process, which the President ignored. In this case, Arpaio hadn’t even been sentenced. President Trump even sought to block Arpaio’s federal prosecution, but General Attorney Sessions told him that would be “inappropriate.” Finally, Arpaio was and is a major Trump supporter who continues to campaign on his behalf, showing that the President is using the pardon as payment for service and loyalty.

When asked whether Speaker Ryan should request your House Judiciary Committee to investigate the pardon, Governor Kasich said Ryan would be too busy with passing health care and tax reform. But you do not need a request from Ryan to open an investigation, and since you have prevented your Committee from investigating the Trump administration’s multiple conflicts of interest and its possible collusion with Russia, you are also not too busy.

You said last November when then President-elect Trump selected Senator Sessions for Attorney General:

“Our nation’s top law enforcement officer has a solemn duty to ensure the rule of law and protect the American people by executing our laws impartially and fully. These core principles have come under attack the past eight years and must be restored at the Justice Department. Upon confirmation by the Senate, I look forward to working with Mr. Sessions to enforce the rule of law, administer justice fairly without giving special treatment to the politically well-connected, and find solutions to the problems facing our nation’s criminal justice system.”

If you sincerely believe that our laws should be executed “impartially and fully,” and that “the politically well-connected” like Arpaio should not receive “special treatment,” then you will an open investigation. But if what you called “core principles” are just talking points to be used or ignored according to political convenience, then you will continue to remain silent about the President’s abusive use of his pardon.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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