That disturbing truth was nowhere more evident than in Mr. Trump’s pardon, late Friday night, of the former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, which he issued, in his cowardly way, as the nation was riveted to the impending landfall of Hurricane Harvey.
To most people with any awareness of Arizona politics, Mr. Arpaio is an abomination to the rule of law, the principle of equal justice and plain decency. He spent a good part of his near-quarter-century in office terrorizing the Latinos of southern Arizona, locking them up for the crime of having brown skin, abusing and humiliating them, refusing to stop even after a federal judge told him to, and arresting journalists for reporting on it all.
Yet to President Trump, Mr. Arpaio is a role model: a man for whom the “rule of law” means that he can do what he wants when he wants, who humiliates those weaker than him and mocks those who try to constrain him, who evades scrutiny and accountability — in short, a perfect little tyrant.
The president can pardon virtually anyone he wants, which makes it more telling that he chose to wield the power for the first time in favor of Mr. Arpaio, an officer of the law who defied a court order. It shows not only contempt for the judiciary’s sole means of enforcing the law, but suggests that Mr. Trump may be just as eager to pardon friends, family and allies caught up in the Russia investigation.
The Arpaio pardon is not only morally reprehensible on its own, it is also in line with Mr. Trump’s broader attitude toward law enforcement. Consider his affection for the Milwaukee County sheriff, David Clarke, an Arpaio in waiting who has called activists in the Black Lives Matter movement “terrorists” and who runs a county jail where inmates have a tendency to die under suspicious circumstances. (On Sunday morning, as Hurricane Harvey raged across Texas, Mr. Trump tweeted out a plug for Mr. Clarke’s new book and called him a “great guy.”)
The pattern goes back much further, as The Times’s Maggie Haberman wrote on Monday. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump endorsed the use of torture on terrorism suspects, encouraged supporters at his rallies to assault protesters and made racially tinged comments about a judge overseeing a case involving Trump University.
In his seven months as president, Mr. Trump has attacked federal judges who ruled against the administration’s travel ban; tried to impede investigations into his allies, including Mr….