Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote to the committee’s chairman Bob Goodlatte on Wednesday to request a hearing over President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The Democrats’ letter outlines several reasons for their request, arguing the pardon is a “gross injustice” based on Arpaio’s history and adding that it is “highly problematic for the President to simply dismiss a pending criminal matter.” The Democrats also took issue with Trump’s process of pardoning Arpaio and said they want to investigate “improper contact” between Trump and the Department of Justice.
“As you are well aware, although the President has wide constitutional authority to issue pardons, there is also ample precedent for our Committee to review pardons as controversial as this one,” the Democrats wrote.
Republicans do not have plans to arrange such a hearing.
"Under the Constitution, the President has broad authority to issue pardons," a Republican House Judiciary Committee aide told BuzzFeed News in an email. "The Committee does not currently have plans to hold a hearing on this matter."
Trump pardoned Arpaio, a controversial former Maricopa County sheriff last Friday. Arpaio is a long-time Trump supporter and was found guilty of contempt of court in July for refusing to stop detaining people based only on suspicions about their immigration status. He had not yet been sentenced, and faced potential prison time.
“I think it’s particularly egregious when somebody who was a law enforcement official violates constitutional rights,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic member on the judiciary committee, told BuzzFeed News. “The gravity of this situation is severe.”
On Monday, Trump stood by his decision to pardon Arpaio during a White House press conference, despite his pardon being criticized by House Speaker Paul Ryan as well as both of Arizona’s Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain.
The Democrats specifically named those Republicans in their letter, noting “we are not alone in raising these concerns.”
"Our nation deserves better than this. The Republican Majority needs to immediately hold a hearing on this matter," Rep. John Conyers, the ranking member on the committee, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.
During his justification for pardoning Arpaio, Trump seemed to suggest his pardon was not scandalous compared to pardons and commutations by former presidents, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
In their letter to Goodlatte, the Democrats pointed out that Goodlatte had in the past been critical of a Clinton pardon the committee reviewed. “These statements are directly on point with respect to President Trump’s decision and demonstrate why the Arpaio pardon is worthy, at the very least, of further discussion by our Committee.”
“He himself has raised concerns about pardons in the past,” Jayapal said. “And therefore he should be willing to hold a hearing on this pardon.”
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Goodlatte’s office for comment.
Democrats vented in their letter that this was the fifth time they have sent a letter to request oversight on the Trump administration and that it was “disturbing” that the committee had done extensive oversight on the Obama administration. Since Democrats are the minority party, they have no authority to call hearings — only Goodlatte and the Republicans can.
Lissandra Villa is a politics reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Lissandra Villa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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