Say No to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Mr. Trump

The Constitution gives the president nearly unlimited power to grant clemency to people convicted of federal offenses, so Mr. Trump can pardon Mr. Arpaio. But Mr. Arpaio was an elected official who defied a federal court’s order that he stop violating people’s constitutional rights. He was found in contempt of that court. By pardoning him, Mr. Trump would show his contempt for the American court system and its only means of enforcing the law, since he would be sending a message to other officials that they may flout court orders also.

..  (Both also spent years promoting the lie that President Barack Obama was born outside the United States.)
.. Both men built their brands by exploiting racial resentments of white Americans. While Mr. Trump was beginning his revanchist run for the White House on the backs of Mexican “rapists,” Mr. Arpaio was terrorizing brown-skinned people across southern Arizona, sweeping them up in “saturation patrols” and holding them in what he referred to as a “concentration camp” for months at a time.
.. It was this behavior that a federal judge in 2011 found to be unconstitutional and ordered Mr. Arpaio to stop. He refused, placing himself above the law and the Constitution that he had sworn to uphold.
.. would also go against longstanding Justice Department policy, which calls for a waiting period of at least five years before the consideration of a pardon application and some expression of regret or remorse by the applicant. Mr. Arpaio shows no sign of remorse; to the contrary, he sees himself as the victim. “If they can go after me, they can go after anyone in this country,” he told Fox News on Wednesday. He’s right — in a nation based on the rule of law, anyone who ignores a court order, or otherwise breaks the law, may be prosecuted and convicted.
.. What’s remarkable here is that Mr. Trump is weighing mercy for a public official who did not just violate the law, but who remains proud of doing so. The law-and-order president is cheering on an unrepentant lawbreaker. Perhaps that’s because Mr. Arpaio has always represented what Mr. Trump aspires to be: a thuggish autocrat who enforces the law as he pleases, without accountability or personal consequence.

A Grand and Disastrous Deceit

Chilcot didn’t mention a single positive outcome. When he finished speaking at the Queen Elizabeth Centre, the audience was stunned. Judging by his appearance when he gave a press conference a few hours later, so too was Blair. Chilcot portrayed the Iraq War as a total failure of government. Two hundred British troops had been killed and many more were injured; 150,000 Iraqis had been killed ‘and probably many more – most of them civilians’; and more than a million people had been displaced. Lives were ruined; Islamic State has emerged in the aftermath, and Britain has been diminished.

.. Yet, devastating as it is, the report does pull some punches. There is no allegation, explicitly at least, of lying, deceit or manipulation, even if the facts as presented make possible the inference.

.. With no lawyer among its members, and no legal counsel to assist it, the inquiry chose to sidestep this delicate matter, claiming it was best ‘resolved by a properly constituted and internationally recognised court’ (a parallel inquiry in the Netherlands, the Davids Commission, which reported in January 2010, concluded that the war had no basis in international law). Even so, Chilcot devotes much of his opening statement to matters of legality.

.. on what basis did Blair take the decision that Iraq was in further material breach? ‘Not clear’, Chilcot answers, somewhat generously, since the evidence before the inquiry showed that Blair consulted no one but himself – not the UN weapons inspectors, not the Joint Intelligence Committee, not anyone. Playing God and weapons inspector, Blair simply made up his mind that Iraq was in material breach. ‘Given the gravity of the decision,’ Chilcot adds, ‘Lord Goldsmith should have been asked to provide written advice explaining how, in the absence of a majority in the Security Council, Mr Blair could take that decision.’ Actually, Goldsmith should have told Blair that this was not a decision he could take himself, not without expert advice. The question of material breach ‘should have been considered by a cabinet committee’, Chilcot says, ‘and then discussed by cabinet itself’. It was not.

.. Two weeks later, on 30 January, when Blair was on his way to Washington to meet Bush, Goldsmith wrote to him that ‘the correct legal interpretation of Resolution 1441 is that it does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council.’ Blair simply ignored the unwanted advice.

.. ‘We had trouble with your attorney,’ a senior Bush lawyer reportedly told a British official. ‘We got him there eventually.’ By 7 March Goldsmith had changed tack, but not far enough. The report details the efforts made to persuade him to harden his advice on 13 and 14 March. They were successful and Goldsmith changed his mind again: no new Security Council resolution was needed provided there was ‘strong evidence’ that Iraq had failed to comply with Resolution 1441

..  On 17 March Goldsmith told Parliament that the use of military force was unambiguously lawful without a further Security Council resolution. Nine months after the ‘I’m with you, whatever’ moment, Blair had the legal chit he wanted, although it was never put in formal, written legal advice.

.. these 169 pages of tightly woven narrative and assessment nonetheless offer a unique insight into the place of legal advice within government: how law is made to fit around policy, rather than the other way round. You can tot up the lies and deceits, the duplicities and the fudges, the techniques used to deliver the support that Blair offered, ‘whatever’.

.. Further meetings took place, without records being kept.

.. . In January Blair told Parliament that the UK could override an ‘unreasonable’ Security Council veto, knowingly contradicting Goldsmith’s clear advice. Later that month Blair failed to tell cabinet about Goldsmith’s serious concerns about the legality of a war, and decided not to ask the attorney general to speak in cabinet.

.. I try to imagine what it would have been like to attend cabinet on the afternoon of 17 March. The attendees have before them a sheet of paper giving the simple legal basis for war. They know nothing of what has come before, of Goldsmith’s numerous changes of direction, or that they are proceeding on the false basis that the document before them constitutes his legal advice (‘it seemed to me the attorney general’s advice was quite unequivocal,’ Gordon Brown told the inquiry, in error). They don’t know that the document before them omits all the uncertainties and Goldsmith’s belief that the proposed legal basis for war is unlikely to persuade a court

.. Yet the inquiry has chosen to hold back on what caused the multitude of errors: was it negligence, or recklessness, or something else? In so doing it has created a space for Blair and the others who stood with him to protest that they acted in good faith, without deceit or lies.

.. First, the inquiry has engaged in salami-slicing, assessing cause and motive in individual moments without stepping back and examining the whole.

.. The whole makes clear that the decision to remove Saddam Hussein and wage war in Iraq was taken early, and that intelligence and law were then fixed to facilitate the desired outcome.

.. On legal matters, Blair manipulated the process, forcing the attorney general to give legal advice at the last possible moment, with troops already massed and a coalition ready to roll.

.. the 7 March document permeated with an understanding of the uncertainty and risk involved in going to war – was deliberately withheld from cabinet.

.. The redacted and recast document of 17 March, the written answer that went to Parliament, cabinet and the people, was an instrument of persuasion that aimed to create the impression that Goldsmith had advised that the war was unequivocally lawful. The document did mislead. It was the product of calculated manipulation enabled by silences and lies, a grand and disastrous deceit.

.. Second, on the basis of material I have seen but isn’t in the public domain, I believe the inquiry may have been excessively generous in its characterisation of evidence.

.. In other words, as early as January Blair had committed himself to supporting a March invasion whether or not there was a further resolution.

.. The Chilcot Report has the two men agreeing that the campaign ‘could’ begin in March, not that it ‘would’ begin then. This tiny change – one letter, quotation marks removed – causes me to wonder whether any other changes of emphasis may have been made

.. Blair spoke for nearly two hours. Not for him the apology of his deputy, John Prescott, who wrote in the Sunday Mirror that, in view of the report, he now believed the war was ‘catastrophic’ and ‘illegal’. Blair instead defended himself, saying he’d take ‘the same decision’ again.

.. It makes it more likely he will be pursued, perhaps for contempt of Parliament, or by civil claims, or claims of misfeasance in public office