David Clarke, Milwaukee County Sheriff Once Considered For DHS Job, Resigns

David Clarke, Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis., salutes after speaking during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Monday, July 18, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has resigned, county clerk George Christenson confirmed to TPM Thursday. Clarke is an ally of President Donald Trump and was reportedly briefly considered for a job at the Department of Homeland Security.

WTMJ-TV’s Steve Chamraz first broke the story Thursday.

Clarke, known for his harsh jailing practices and strong condemnation of activist groups like Black Lives Matter, briefly claimed in May that he was being considered for a job in the Department of Homeland Security. He was a vocal supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, even speaking at the Republican National Convention.

“I will be leaving the position of sheriff to accept an appointment as an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security,” he told WISN’s Vicki McKenna on May 17. “I’m both honored and humbled to be appointed to this position by Secretary Kelly, working for the Trump administration.”

However, DHS itself never acknowledged such an offer, and over the course of several weeks, Clarke began doubting his place within the administration.

Later in May, he expressed uncertainty about the offer, citing a CNN report about plagiarism in his 2013 master’s degree thesis.

“This is designed to intimidate me,” he said of the news organization. “It’s designed to try to weaken the confidence that President Trump has in me, that Secretary Kelly has in me.”

On June 19, according to his spokesperson, Clarke “formally notified Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly that he had rescinded his acceptance of the agency’s offer to join DHS as an assistant secretary.”

Clarke’s harsh jailing practices have come under legal scrutiny in the past.

An inquest jury in May recommended charges against seven Milwaukee County Jail officials in the dehydration death of Terrill Thomas, who was denied water and a mattress for seven days while in Clarke’s jail, the Milkwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Earlier this month, the Journal Sentinel reported, Thomas’ family sued 29 defendants, including Clarke.

Thomas was one of four people who died at the Milwaukee County Jail since April 2016, including a newborn baby, the Huffington Post reported in November of last year.

In June, the Washington Post reported, a former inmate in the jail who claimed she was raped several times by a guard was awarded $6.7 million in damages. The same jury found that there was “no legitimate non-punitive” reason to force the woman to give birth in shackles.

Clarke’s aggressive political rhetoric seemed to gel with Trump’s own style.

“Many of the actions of the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter transcend peaceful protest, and violates the code of conduct we rely on,” he said from the RNC stage. “I call it anarchy.”

In October, he posted a photo of a torch-bearing mob on Twitter, writing: “It’s incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time.”

In November, Clarke met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York City, largely seen as the beginning of a potential path to an administration job. Though the job never materialized, Trump promoted Clarke’s book, “Cop Under Fire,” on Sunday, as Hurricane Harvey battered Texas.

Read Clarke’s resignation letter below, via the Milwaukee County clerk’s office:

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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