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Trump may see himself in Joe Arpaio

Catherine Rampell on

Those are the best-known parallels between the two politicians, but they're hardly the only ones. There are many other ways in which Arpaio has proved to be Trump's mini-me.

Arpaio has, for example, jailed journalists who wrote critical stories about his hidden commercial real estate transactions. Trump's antipathy for the media likewise goes beyond bashing us as "the enemy of the people" and threatening to "open up the libel laws" -- he reportedly asked the FBI director to fight leaks by throwing journalists in jail.

Or consider their preferred forms of pomp and circumstance.

For years as sheriff, Arpaio rode a giant tank in local parades. Trump hoped (but failed) to emulate this in his own inaugural parade in January. Trump also plans to issue an executive order expanding the militarization of local police forces, which Obama had rolled back.

Both Trump and Arpaio also have launched attacks on the independence of our federal judiciary.

Trump did this by, among other things, questioning the ability of a U.S.-born judge of Mexican descent to remain impartial in a Trump University case. Arpaio, for his part, refused a court order to stop racial profiling -- earning him a contempt-of-court conviction, the crime for which he was pardoned.

Before that, Arpaio secretly investigated a judge assigned to his trial, and then claimed that this same judge could not be impartial because the judge had learned about the politically motivated investigation.

Politically motivated investigations were actually a mainstay of Arpaio's law enforcement career, as well as Trump's campaign rallies ("Lock her up!"), while both claim to be victims of political witch hunts themselves.

And woe betide those who actually find themselves imprisoned under either's authority.

Trump throughout the presidential campaign repeatedly advocated torturing prisoners held abroad; Arpaio often acted on this brutal impulse in his own jails. He set up a "tent city," which he sometimes referred to as a "concentration camp," housing inmates in temperatures reaching up to 145 degrees; conditions got so hot that prisoners' shoes sometimes melted.

And at least three prisoners died -- each at the time held down in a "restraint chair" -- via suffocation.

Trump and the White House repeatedly alluded to 85-year-old Arpaio's advanced age when justifying his absolution, perhaps another reason that the oldest man to assume the presidency empathizes with the recipient of his first pardon.

Over the two years of his political life, Trump's insults have often been of the I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I projectional variety. Turns out his praise and clemency are, as well.

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Catherine Rampell's email address is crampell@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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