President Trump used his pardon power for the first time on Friday when he pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was prosecuted and convicted for his refusal to heed a judicial order to stop his discriminatory and unconstitutional anti-immigration crack-down in Arizona.
Scarborough Suggests This Pardon More Than Just A Terrible Choice
On his show Morning Joe on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough discussed the recent pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The pardon has been widely criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike. The President dispensed with Department of Justice policy and pardoned a man who was prosecuted for defying the rule of law.
Scarborough suggested that the pardon might not only be politically damaging to the President, it might be included in possible articles of impeachment against the President.
Scarborough said in part:
“He doesn’t respect the rule of law. Why did he do this? Who knows? Maybe it’s throwing more red meat out there, but it’s not something that even Republicans support. Did he have the authority to do this? Yes, he had the authority to do this, but if articles of impeachment years down the road are ever brought up against this man, these are the sort of things that are going to be attached in abuse of power.”
So Could The Pardon Be an Impeachable Offense?
The answer to that, as is the answer to many legal questions, is maybe. Article I section 2 of the United States Constitution says “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
This is the standard by which impeachment efforts are evaluated. Certain actions taken by the President seem to fit quite clearly into this language, obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation.
However, the President has authority to pardon anyone for anything. The pardon itself is not impeachable but since he pardoned Arpaio before the legal process had concluded in the case he has violated DOJ policy. The policy contends people hoping for a pardon should have served a significant portion of their sentence.
Arpaio has zero remorse for his actions and was convicted specifically for defying a court order. In the future, if Congress brings articles of impeachment against the President, it would be unlikely that this pardon would be the primary cause, however, it may be on the list.
There is certainly an argument to be made that this pardon obstructs the interests of justice as it sets precedent for individuals to defy judicial orders and maybe even the Constitution itself.