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How David Clarke Bridges Donald Trump’s Gun Nuts and Vladimir Putin’s Kleptocrats

Could our next secretary of homeland security really be a gun-loving, Russia-visiting jails boss who’s left a trail of dead inmates behind him?

12.05.16 6:00 AM ET

Remember Bernie Kerik? You’re forgiven if the name’s rappelled into the memory hole, just one more known unknown from The Bush Years. Kerik was a rising star, who’d started off as Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s driver in New York and eventually became chief of the NYPD, serving in that role during the 9/11 attacks, and then garnering a nomination to run Bush’s Department of Homeland Security.

Then it came out that he’d employed an undocumented worker as a nanny, used an apartment meant for exhausted post-9/11 first responders to carry on a lurid affair, and finally pleaded guilty to two state ethics violations and then eight federal crimes, sending him to prison for four years. Yet Kerik seems downright responsible compared to the guy Donald Trump is considering to run DHS.

Last week, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke made a pilgrimage to New York to visit The Donald in his gaudy gold-encrusted apartment on Fifth Avenue. Clarke, who’s permanently attached the title “Sheriff” to his name like an additional appendage, and dons a cowboy hat for each and every public appearance as part of a tough-guy shtick that’s anything but funny.

We know Clarke runs a jail in Wisconsin where an inmate died of “profound dehydration”—ruled a homicide by the courts—and where three inmates and a newborn baby have died in his custody and under questionable circumstances in just the last eight months.

But Clarke is also at the nexus of a relationship between Donald Trump and two of the well-known members of his mutually reinforcing support group this past election, the cronyistic kleptocracy of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the extremist paranoiacs of the National Rifle Association.

Clarke—who shows up at annual NRA conferences to promote insurrection and sits on the board of the Crime Prevention Research Center, which essentially gun nuts’ propaganda arm—is also featured in a commercial the group released praising cops in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement, which he has said is made up of “slimy people” who “only care about political power.”

The Crime Prevention Research Center is run by former academic John Lott Jr. Listening to his thoughts on guns is akin to taking Lance Armstrong’s advice on clean living or tips from Chris Christie on talking with your inside voice. Lott has pretended to be a former female student—named Mary Rosh—online, who just loves and praises, well, John Lott. He fabricated an entire survey that “found” 98 percent of the time guns are used defensively. Pressed to show his work, he claimed his hard drive had eaten his homework. This is the company Clarke keeps.

And Clarke has served as a virtual Bering Land Bridge between the NRA and its counterpart in Russia, The Right to Bear Arms, taking a trip to the country almost exactly a year ago with a who’s who of NRA brass. Present on this bizarre excursion were ex-NRA President David Keene, NRA First Vice President Pete Brownell—who also just happens to run an enormous firearm accessory empire—and NRA Women’s Leadership Forum executive committee member Hilary Goldschlager.

Brownell, the NRA “Ring of Freedom” and The Right To Bear Arms paid for Clarke’s trip. When queried by the press, his office claimed it was a personal trip and they didn’t wish comment. Yet he filled out a Milwaukee County ethics disclosure form, which is unnecessary for trips of a personal nature (i.e. vacations).

While in Russia, the group attended a conference put on by their domestic host. At the event, a speech was given by honorary The Right To Bear Arms member, Alexander Torshin, a former Russian Senator, NRA Life Member and close Putin ally, who was appointed deputy governor for Russia’s central bank by the Russian leader himself. At the most recent NRA Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in May of this year, Sheriff Clarke tweeted a picture of himself with Donald Trump Jr., who was sitting at special guest Torshin’s table.

The idea of having someone so comfy with the Putinites and our own domestic arms lobby running an agency tasked, quite literally, with “keeping our country safe” seems somewhere south of insane.

We may have no choice but to live with the new sheriff in D.C. come Jan. 20. But if Trump then nominates Sheriff Clarke, the Senate—whose vote would be our only chance to stop him—must do all it can to keep him as far away from the Potomac as possible.