The president’s power to pardon is absolute, but that isn’t stopping a coalition of liberal activists and a liberal federal court.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is taking the unusual step of appointing a special prosecutor to argue that former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio’s contempt of court conviction should stand, despite being pardoned by Trump.
Arpaio was convicted in 2017 on charges of defying a federal court order to cease patrols of the U.S./Mexico border.
Trump quickly pardoned Arpaio. Liberal activists sued to overturn Arpaio’s pardon, claiming it violated their constitutional rights.
They not only want Arpaio’s conviction to remain on his record, but they also claim they can overturn the pardon in court.
The Justice Department sided with Arpaio, pointing out the president’s power to pardon in the case is unquestionable.
That’s when the court, in a 2-1 ruling, ordered a special prosecutor be appointed to argue against the pardon.
There is no precedent for such a case, and no presidential pardon has ever been overturned in court. That’s because the Constitution unequivocally states the President “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
That means, except in cases of impeachment, the President can pardon anyone for any federal crime, such as Arpaio’s federal conviction for contempt.
While the president could be prosecuted for selling a pardon or using one to obstruct justice, the pardon itself cannot be challenged.
Only one member of the three-judge panel dissented.
Judge Richard C. Tallman, an appointee of President Clinton, wrote, “I fear the majority’s decision will be viewed as judicial imprimatur of the special prosecutor to make inappropriate, unrelated, and undoubtedly political attacks on presidential authority. We should not be wading into that thicket.”
But that isn’t stopping liberal activists groups from suing to overturn the Constitution and imprison Arpaio in an act of political vengeance.