President Trump just pardoned a man who was convicted by his own defiant words to the press, a possible cautionary tale for the POTUS.
Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff who Trump pardoned Friday, was convicted of criminal contempt of court for violating an order to stop illegal detentions of Latinos for simply looking Latino, an act better known as racial profiling.
Arpaio‘s defiant public announcements that he would disregard the court order were used to convict him for criminal contempt of court. The former sheriff’s announcement of his noncompliance put Arpaio in legal jeopardy.
Legal experts warn that Trump’s similar use of Twitter and the media to defiantly reveal his reasons for firing former FBI director James B. Comey, as well as other public statements, could be used as evidence that the president intentionally obstructed Comey’s investigation, which is a felony.
At the time he was fired, Comey was leading a broad investigation into the possible collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia’s efforts to disrupt the 2016 election.
Arpaio found out the hard way that making incriminating statements in the press can be used as evidence against you.
In federal district judge Susan Bolton’s July 31 conviction of Arpaio, she cited the former Maricopa County sheriff’s more than 20 statements to the press and his staff that he would deny a federal court order.
Arpaio openly ignored a 2011 court order to stop arresting and detaining people — including Americans — for suspected immigration violations solely because they appeared to be Latinos and doing so without legal authority to act as a federal immigration agent.
The judge issued the order after several Americans and a Mexican tourist legally in this country sued Arpaio and his department for violating their civil rights, claiming they were illegally detained for several hours based solely on their race.
In public defiance of the order, Arpaio bragged to the media that he would “never give in to control by the federal government,” that he would not “back down” and “if they don’t like what I’m doing, get the laws changed in Washington.”
Judge Bolton found Arpaio guilty of “blatantly disregarding” the order by continuing race-based arrests and detentions. She cited Arpaio’s public statements that “broadcast to the world and to his subordinates that he would and they should continue ‘what he had always been doing'” and ignore the court order.
In similar attacks, Trump has used the media and Twitter to make potentially incriminating statements about a federal investigation focused on Trump, his presidential campaign and his family, and whether they illegally cooperated with Russia’s interference with the 2016 election.
In May, Trump admitted to NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired Comey because he was directing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia leading up to the presidential election.
“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” Trump told Holt. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
Trump also tweeted accusations that Comey lied to Congress and illegally leaked his notes of his one-on-one meetings with the president. The president also called the Russia probe now lead by special counsel James Mueller a “witch hunt” — which Trump continues to do — just after news reports that the investigation expanded to Trump himself.
Special counsel Mueller has widened his scrutiny to include possible obstruction of justice charges against the president, according to the Washington Post.
It is a felony to intentionally try to “influence, obstruct or impede” a federal investigation. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
The end of Arpaio’s political career provides another cautionary tale for Trump.
While Trump and Arpaio shared the same anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant rhetoric during their respective campaigns in Arizona last year, Trump won in the sheriff’s home turf of Maricopa County… but Arpaio lost.
Arpaio, hardly a newcomer with 24 years in office, cost the county’s taxpayers more than $70 million fighting the racial profiling lawsuit. The sheriff also rang up a bill for an additional tens of millions of dollars as a result of wrongful death and civil rights lawsuits against his department.
The 85-year-old Arpaio, who denied intentionally violated the racial detention court order, faced up to six months of confinement before Trump’s pardon.