This post has been updated.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday called on the committee’s Republican chair to hold a hearing scrutinizing President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“The pardon sends an unequivocal signal that institutionalized racial profiling as practiced by Sheriff Arpaio is acceptable; the pardon is disrespectful to the rule of law in general and to the federal courts in particular,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).
A Republican aide on the House Judiciary Committee told TPM that the committee does not currently have plans to hold a hearing on this issue.
Trump pardoned Arpaio as a hurricane bore down on Texas late Friday, after teasing that he would help out the notorious Arizona sheriff in the weeks leading up to his final decision. Arpaio had been convicted of contempt of court last month for ignoring a court order to stop detaining people based on the suspicion that they are undocumented immigrants.
In their letter to Goodlatte, committee Democrats argued that the pardon “represents a gross injustice” given Arpaio’s history of racial discrimination and the infamous “tent city” open-air jail he ran.
They also noted that Trump did not go through the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney to vet his pardon of Arpaio, as has been customary.
“President Trump chose to work around this mechanism and ignore DOJ policy calling for a waiting period of five years or more before considering a pardon application and the expression of regret or remorse by the applicant,” the Democrats wrote.
They warned that Trump’s dismissal of the norms for presidential pardons suggests he “may soon be tempted to issue pardons that stem from matters under investigation by Special Counsel Bob Mueller.”
“We should be certain that the right structures are in place to temper those decisions well before they reach the President’s desk,” Democrats argued in the letter.
They also noted that Trump reportedly asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to drop the federal case against Arpaio before he pardoned the former sheriff. Committee Democrats gave Sessions credit for telling Trump that dropping the case wouldn’t have been appropriate, but they argued that Trump’s conversation with Sessions shows the President continues to improperly contact the Justice Department.
The Democrats pointed out that they were not alone in their concern over the Arpaio pardon, noting opposition from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and urged Goodlatte to take up the issue with the committee.
They also criticized the chairman for declining to hold an oversight hearing during the Trump administration so far.
“We note that this letter represents the fifth time we have written to ask you to conduct oversight of the Trump administration,” they wrote. “Given that our Committee created an entire task force to examine ‘executive overreach’ last Congress during President Obama’s term, it is somewhat disturbing that we have not engaged in any comparable oversight of the Trump Administration.”
Read the letter below:
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