The Warp and Woof of the Constitution pulled apart by Trump’s pardon powers
Lets be clear about this: there is nothing in the text of the U.S. Constitution’s pardons clause that suggests President Donald Trump abused his power. Presidents enjoy for now “unlimited” authority to grant pardons (see Ex Parte Garland).
After all, former Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office regularly violated the Constitutional rights of Latinos, as deputies racially profiled and detained them based solely on the suspicion that individuals were in the country illegally. It happened to me while visiting Phoenix and it happened to family members living there.
And before you start to argue that Sheriff Joe was only enforcing immigration law that former President Obama ignored, remember — this was a guy that in 2005 arrested former Army reservist Patrick Haab for detaining seven undocumented immigrants at gunpoint in the desert. The sheriff at the time said, “Being illegal is not a serious crime.”
But then the public rallied and turned Haab into a folk hero. And as any good politician will do, Sheriff Joe ignored his convictions in order to maintain power.
Such political convenience eventually cost him, because in a democracy, the people hold true power thru public accountability. With 20% of the electorate being Hispanic (and soon will be the majority by 2030) Sheriff Joe lost his re-election bid last year because the man did violence to the U.S. Constitution.
Now, that same document Sheriff Joe repeatedly stepped on rescues him thanks to a presidential pardon. Conveniently, corrupt power begets corrupt power.
Because by displaying the absolute authority to grant clemency, Trump also reveals his contempt for the constitution. Separation of powers means the executive exercises his authority within the Article II sphere, but never crossing into the purview of others, like the judiciary.
The courts were on their way to hold a person accountable — not politically but legally — for willfully violating the rights of American citizens. And some argue Trump now takes a (further) radical step in his attack on the independent constitutional authority of Article III judges.
It’s actually worse because its expressing presidential contempt for the people. The Constitution grants “we” equal protection under the law, due process and the right to be left alone — all within a “checks and balances” paradigm.
This signals to all that lawlessness will be forgiven as long as the dictates of one are pursued. Trump — a man championed by my spiritual family as a wrecking ball — just began to unravel the threads of the Constitution’s warp and woof that clothes us in liberty.