Along with testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions can expect a subpoena from lawyers for a former Arizona lawman who has been called Donald Trump’s political soul mate.
The soul mate is 84-year-old former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was Trump’s sidekick in championing the birther nonsense about President Obama and in raising the specter of criminals and rapists pouring across our southern border.
Arpaio is presently being prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly violating a federal judge’s order to cease immigration enforcement such as the Trump administration is now pressing sanctuary cities to conduct, or else.
The Arizona U.S. attorney’s office had long worked with Arpaio as it would any local law enforcement official and recused itself. The case went to the Public Integrity Section of the criminal division of the main U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
The matter was complicated when Trump was voted into office on the same day Arpaio was voted out. Arpaio’s lawyers complicated it further with the ninth name on an amended witness list that they submitted to the federal court in April.
“9. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”
Unless he mounts a successful challenge to the subpoena that Arpaio’s lawyers plan to issue this week, Sessions can expect to be called to the stand when the trial commences in Phoenix federal court. It is presently scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on June 26.
The defense attorneys hope to use Sessions to underscore the irony of Arpaio being prosecuted by the very entity that is using the threat of pulling federal funds to get cities to do essentially what their client is accused of doing.
“Same Department of Justice going after cities for not cooperating enough,” Arpaio attorney Jack Wilenchik told The Daily Beast.
Wilenchik said of Arpaio, “What’s his worst sin? Cooperating too much.”
In an added twist, the case will be before Judge Susan Bolton, the very one who upheld SB 1070, the Arizona state law that requires cops to act on a “reasonable suspicion” that someone they have detained is in the country illegally.
Under federal law, there is no right to a jury trial in a criminal contempt case. And, as it now stands, the outcome will be decided solely by Bolton.
But, whatever her views on immigration and the law, whatever Sessions might say on the stand about Arpaio only doing what the Department of Justice is pressing all jurisdictions to do, Bolton will likely narrow her concerns to whether or not Arpaio willfully defied the lawful order of a fellow judge.
For that reason, Arpaio’s lawyers have petitioned the U.S Supreme Court to be granted a jury trial. Wilenchik figures that the irony of the situation as personified by Sessions might prompt jurors to side with his client.
“Juries speak common sense,” Wilenchik told The Daily Beast. “Lawyers do not. Judge are lawyers.”
Wilenchik summarized the seeming common sense that the defense will be offering in court, whether before a jury or just the judge.
“All this guy was ever trying to do is be a good cop,” Wilenchik.
But no good cop ignores lawful orders while declaring he will “not bend to the federal government,” or speaks as Arpaio did at last summer’s Republican National Convention.
“Terrorists [are] coming over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” he proclaimed.
As Maricopa County’s chief law enforcement officer, Arpaio’s primary response to the threat of illegal immigration seems to have long been stopping Latino drivers on whatever pretext was handy.
Back in 2011, Arizona federal Judge Murray Snow ruled that Arpaio’s tactics constituted racial profiling in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Snow—a George W. Bush appointee and hardly a reflexive liberal—ordered Arpaio to desist. Arpaio publicly vowed to continue.
“I’m not stopping anything,” he declared.
Arpaio was still at it last May, when Snow found him in to be civil contempt. Snow sought to prevent further profiling by essentially ordering him to stop immigration enforcement.
Arpaio allegedly persisted. Snow found him to be in criminal contempt, writing that Arpaio and his underlings “have engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith,” while demonstrating ”an intention to violate and manipulate the laws and policies regulating their conduct.”
Wilenchik seeks to excuse his client’s conduct and more extreme statements by noting that sheriff is an elected position. Wilenchik says that along with “the law enforcement aspect” there was “the politician aspect of it.”
“You have to get attention,” Wilenchik said. “That’s the life-blood of every politician.”
And Arpaio certainly got lots of it when he joined Trump in questioning Obama’s birth certificate and in stoking fears of illegal immigrants. They were two attention junkies on a roll.
But Arpaio carried the political aspect into the law-enforcement aspect to the point where Judge Snow found that he was being not a good cop, but a bad one.
At the approach of the trial before Judge Bolton, Arpaio is soliciting whatever contributions he can for the Sheriff Joe Legal Defense Fund. The fundraising letter indicates that defeat at the polls has made him no less a soul mate with the victorious Trump.
“I am Joe Arpaio, and I am incredibly proud to be known as ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff.’ It was an honor to serve the Maricopa County for over two decades, and the many personal and professional attacks I faced during my time as Sheriff were well worth my fight to uphold American values and the Rule of Law.
“On November 8th, I lost my battle for re-election, which was one of the most contentious campaigns in the nation. The national liberal machine spent millions of dollars in attack ads and nasty political tricks against me.
“For example, the Obama Justice Department announced they were filing contempt of court charges against me the day before early voting started. And then, knowing they would get the media to pile on, waited until two weeks before Election Day to actually file those charges. I believe this was a pure political move on their part to do the most damage to me.”
The letter fails to mention that prosecutors sought to hold the initial hearing in September. Court records indicate that Arpaio’s own lawyers moved to hold it in October, just before the early voting. The letter continues:
“It was the toughest battle of my career, and I thought that defeating me would finally end the Left’s sick vendetta against me. I was wrong.
“I am now in the throes of a costly, contentious legal battle—one that puts my very freedom at stake and could send me to jail.
“Friend, I have always been able to count on principled, patriotic Americans like you to stand with me against the attacks of the Left. Now, I am humbly asking that you stand with me again with a donation of ANY AMOUNT you can afford.”
The letter further fails to mention that the prosecution is now being brought not by “the left” and the Obama Justice Department, but by the Trump Justice Department.
A simultaneous and equally Trump-ian fundraising effort is being mounted on Arpaio’s behalf by the National Center for Police Defense (NCPD). This campaign announces that “America’s Toughest Sheriff Needs Your Help!” and warns that “what was left over of the Obama Justice Department has taken retired Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to court just for enforcing the law and are hoping to put him in jail for the rest of his life.”
Never mind that the Arpaio’s age prompted the Obama Justice Department to ask the judge back in October to put a six-month cap on any possible sentence.
NCPD goes on to say that Arpaio “has to face a liberal Obama-appointed judge” and could die behind bars rather than “spending the remainder of his years with his wife, children and grandchildren.”
Never mind that Judge Bolton was appointed by President Clinton and that she was the one who upheld SB 1070.
And now Bolton will be presiding when Arpaio’s lawyers hope to call Sessions to the stand. The ironies will be many, but Bolton’s record attests that she will be guided by the singular factor that is our best hope to get through all the convolutions of this new age.