- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Congressional Democrats escalated the battle over former Sheriff Joe Arpaio Wednesday, filing briefs urging a federal judge to ignore President Trump’s pardon and carry out sentencing for the controversial lawman.

The Democrats, led by the party’s senior members on the House Judiciary Committee, said Mr. Trump was showing his own contempt for the judiciary by issuing the pardon, and could even be seen to be endorsing Mr. Arpaio’s original behavior that landed him in hot water.

Legally, the Democrats said, only courts can be involved in contempt of court cases, and they said by trying to pardon someone for the offense Mr. Trump is upsetting the careful separation of powers between the branches.

“The pardon here is an intentional usurpation of the court’s authority by the president,” the Democrats argued in a 15-page brief,

Judge Susan Bolton found Mr. Arpaio in criminal contempt of court in late July, and Mr. Trump responded a month later with the first pardon of his tenure for the former six-term sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.

Judge Bolton has yet to signal what she’ll do with respect to the pardon, but she has resisted calls by Mr. Arpaio’s legal team to expunge the conviction from the lawman’s record.

Mark D. Goldman, one of Mr. Arpaio’s lawyers, said the latest brief by congressional Democrats was “outrageous,” and called them “narcissistic imbeciles.”

“Obviously these congressmen have nothing better to do and don’t care one iota about our country,” he said. “This is pointless political posturing in its worst form. Korea is threatening us with nuclear weapons, terrorism is now running rampant and unchecked in Europe, we have millions of illegal aliens in the United States, and NFL football players are taking a knee at games, and these congressmen are wasting time attempting to intervene in this matter.”

Democrats’ argument will likely have a tough legal path. Experts on presidential pardons say there are myriad examples of pardons or commutations issued in contempt cases, and Mr. Trump’s pardon is in line with those.

The Democrats’ separation of powers argument also rings hollow after the Obama administration’s handling of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

Mr. Holder was held in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with document requests, yet Mr. Holder’s own Justice Department refused to pursue the case — giving one branch an effective veto over another branch’s contempt powers.

But the Democrats said Mr. Trump presents a special danger. They said they fear he will issue repeated pardons to thwart the courts, and they said impeachment — the solution the Supreme Court has suggested for such abuses — can’t be the only option.

They pleaded with Judge Bolton to appoint a special lawyer to present official arguments against accepting the pardon.

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