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[SUNDAY FEATURE] Why Trump’s pardon of Arpaio follows law, yet challenges it

Posted by   /  August 27, 2017  /  No Comments

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President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff, who was found guilty of criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop detaining some undocumented immigrants. /Credit Courtney Pedroza for The New York Times

By Adam Liptak | The New York Times

President Trump’s decision to pardon Joe Arpaio was characteristically unconventional. It came late on a Friday night as a hurricane bore down on Texas. It concerned a crime some said was particularly ill-suited to clemency, and it was not the product of the care and deliberation that have informed pardons by other presidents.

But it was almost certainly lawful. The Constitution gives presidents extremely broad power to grant pardons.

Related: Trump Asked Top Aides Months Ago if Arpaio Case Could Be Dropped, Officials Say

Last month, a federal judge found Mr. Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff, guilty of criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop detaining immigrants based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally. The order had been issued in a lawsuit that accused the sheriff’s office of violating the Constitution by using racial profiling to jail Latinos. Mr. Arpaio had faced a sentence of up to six months in jail.

Mr. Trump thus used his constitutional power to block a federal judge’s effort to enforce the Constitution. Legal experts said they found this to be the most troubling aspect of the pardon, given that it excused the lawlessness of an official who had sworn to defend the constitutional structure.

Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard, argued before the pardon was issued that such a move “would express presidential contempt for the Constitution.”

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