On Friday, with category 4 Hurricane Harvey barreling toward the east coast of Texas, Donald Trump had other things on his mind … following through on his threats … or keeping his promises, depending on where you stand on such things.
The first was the pardoning of racist former sheriff Joe Arpaio from Arizona. As you may recall, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to end illegal racist practices in Maricopa Country during his tenure there.
“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.” – Donald Trump
The pardon sends a double message. The first is that racists and bigots need not worry overly much about consequences for their actions as long as Trump is in office. The second, equally disturbing message, is that he will pardon with impunity, those who he sees as loyal supporters.
Consider, for example, James Fields, who used his car as a weapon of terror in Charlottesville two weeks ago, injuring 19 and killing 34-year-old Heather Heyer. If he is convicted, as he must be, of murder, will Trump pardon him? Would we be surprised if he did?
Ultimately, I believe a number of people will be convicted of treason for colluding with Russia in the interference of the 2016 presidential election. I speculate that some of those people are very close to Trump, and others may still be loyal followers. Will Trump simply pardon them, one by one, as they are convicted? And again, would it surprise us if he did?
The Constitution gives the president nearly unlimited power to grant clemency to people convicted of federal offenses, so Mr. Trump can pardon Mr. Arpaio. But Mr. Arpaio was an elected official who defied a federal court’s order that he stop violating people’s constitutional rights. He was found in contempt of that court. By pardoning him, Mr. Trump would show his contempt for the American court system and its only means of enforcing the law, since he would be sending a message to other officials that they may flout court orders also. – New York Times, 26 August 2017
The second thing Trump did on Friday night was to sign yet another of his over-reaching executive orders, this one to follow through on his tweet of a few weeks ago banning transgender individuals from the military.
Last month, in one of his palsied morning blurbs, Trump tweeted …
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,”
Turned out that “his” generals had neither been consulted nor given an opportunity for input, as they were caught completely off guard and vowed to make no changes until given a formal directive to do so. Trump’s executive order was just such a directive:
“Accordingly, by the authority vested in me as President and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States under the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including Article II of the Constitution, I am directing the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the U.S. Coast Guard, to return to the longstanding policy and practice on military service by transgender individuals that was in place prior to June 2016 until such time as a sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have the negative effects discussed above.”
The reasons for this abomination, this reversal of civil rights, are stated in his directive to be the additional medical cost. I suggest there is a more prevalent, two-fold reason. First, his base of social conservatives has no tolerance for the LGBT community anywhere … not in places of business, not in public restrooms, and not in the military. Second, and this has been the reason for many, if not most, of his executive orders: President Obama was the one who took the step to stop discriminating against the LGBT community, and Trump is determined to reverse any and all actions his predecessor took.
Both of these actions, the pardoning of Arpaio and the banning of transgender people from the military, are steeped in controversy and there will be a hue and cry. It has been suggested by at least one analyst that Hurricane Harvey played right into Trump’s hands, providing cover for these two newsworthy items, giving him the hope that his actions would go largely unnoticed. In this day of ongoing news coverage, that is not going to happen. There will be, already is, a storm brewing that has nothing to do with wind and rain, but with truth and justice.
With these two latest decisions, as with most of his executive orders thus far, Trump has grossly abused the power of his office. He is not the first to pardon someone who did not deserve to be pardoned, but in doing so, he has taken our nation a step backward in civil rights, in human rights, as it were. The same is true of his transgender ban. Under the past 50-60 years, this country has made strides in civil rights, in acceptance of ALL humans as equal. Last night, Donald Trump began chipping away at those rights, and sent a message loud and clear that we cannot trust the person in the Oval Office. What is next? For make no mistake … the indignities will not stop here.