President Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joseph Arpaio of the crime of contempt is no doubt going to be met by the left with contempt. Under our law, after all, a pardon fully erases the guilt, as if the crime had never been committed. Even before the Arpaio pardon was issued, the New York Times dragged in professor Martin Redish of Northwestern Law School to suggest that such a pardon could be challenged because the sheriff was convicted of, as the professor put it, “violating constitutional rights, in defiance of a court order involving racial profiling.”
Good luck with that theory, professor. The thinking at Northwestern seems to be that one can be pardoned for kidnapping, murder, or espionage — any federal crime — only so long as constitutional rights weren’t violated. We missed that little constitutional lacuna. But, hey, you never know (a lone individual just won the Powerball jackpot of three quarters of a billion dollars). Meantime, the Democrats have no standing to get on their high horses. For they have shown us what contempt for contempt looks like.
That came to a head toward the end of President Obama’s first term, when the House found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. It was the first contempt finding against a sitting cabinet member in history and a shocking judgment in respect of the individual who should have been our nation’s top law enforcement officer. Yet he had behaved contemptuously of Congress’s order to produce documents in respect of the “fast and furious” gun-running operation.
General Holder’s behavior shocked even some Democrats, 17 of whom joined in the vote to hold him in contempt. It was two years later, with Congress still waiting on the documents, that General Holder was confronted by Congressmen Louis Gohmert and gave us a glimpse of what contempt looks like. That was after Mr. Gohmert called the Department of Justice response “inadequate” and said: “I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight.”
“You don’t want to go there, buddy,” muttered the Attorney General. Then, more loudly: “You don’t want to go there. Okay?”
Mr. Gohmert of Texas was dumbstruck.
“I don’t want to go there?” he asked incredulously.
“No,” Mr. Holder snapped.
“About the contempt?”
“You should not assume that, ah, that is not a big deal to me. I think that it was inappropriate, I think it was unjust. But never think that was not a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”
Why not? Particularly since the Obama administration refused to prosecute Mr. Holder’s contempt. What a contrast to Mr. Arpaio, whom the Obama administration pursued relentlessly. Both law officers, ironically, were entangled in the trouble on our southern border. Yet there has not been so much as a quark . . .nay, a gluon of contrition from Mr. Holder or any member of the administration over Mr. Holder’s contempt.
Senator McCain, of Sheriff Arpaio’s state of Arizona, denounced Mr. Trump’s pardon of the sheriff by saying that “no one is above the law.” The pardon power, though, is the law. Any president’s use of it is a completely lawful use of the checks and balances that are the key to our constitutional system. Meantime, General Holder’s contempt for contempt has shorn the Democrats of standing to get up on their high horse in respect of Sheriff Arpaio.