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Democrats outraged, most Republicans silent, on Trump pardon of Arpaio, and transgender military ban

Published: Saturday, August 26, 2017 @ 7:46 AM

As the nation watched the progress of a destructive Hurricane Harvey over the Gulf Coast of Texas, Democrats in Congress loudly condemned President Donald Trump's Friday night pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, as well as the release of new memo ordering the Pentagon to stop accepting transgender Americans for military service, while Congressional Republicans were nearly silent on both of those White House moves.

"The only reason to do these right now is to use the cover of Hurricane Harvey to avoid scrutiny," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, in a sentiment shared by other Democrats in Congress.

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The reaction to the President's decisions on Friday night followed a familiar script - strong support from his most ardent supporters, outrage from Democrats in the House and Senate, and mainly silence from Republicans in the Congress, outside of a handful of GOP lawmakers on either side.

"America owes Sheriff Arpaio a debt of gratitude and not the injustice of a political witch hunt," said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), one of three Arizona Republicans in Congress to voice their support for the Arpaio pardon.

But while Biggs, Franks, and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) publicly expressed their support, most other Republicans - including GOP leaders in Congress - were nearly all silent - no press statements, no emails, no comments on social media, as a handful in the GOP publicly rebuked the President.

"Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course," said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who has sparred repeatedly with the President in recent weeks.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and a few other Republicans went further.

"The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions," McCain said in a written statement.

"Last night's pardon announcement further divides our country as does the policy against transgender Americans defending our freedoms," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).

Democrats were outraged by the Arpaio pardon.

"The Arpaio pardon is basically a big middle finger to America. A loud, proud declaration that this Administration supports racism," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT).

"Joe Arpaio does not deserve a pardon," said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who repeatedly jabbed at the President on Twitter. "Racist vigilantism has a champion in the White House."

There was a similar reaction to the release of a formal memo from President Trump, which bans transgender individuals from serving in the military, as top Republicans in the defense arena in Congress had almost nothing to say about the Friday night announcement.

"Military service is a privilege, not a right," said Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), one of the very few Republicans to even issue a statement about Mr. Trump's transgender ban announcement, which came soon after he left for a weekend at Camp David.

For Democrats - like with the Arpaio pardon - the reaction was much different.

"Transgender service members risk their lives to defend our nation, many with distinction," countered Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), one of many Democrats in Congress to denounce Mr. Trump's move. "These patriots deserve better."

"This is a disgraceful, bigoted attack on transgender Americans honorably serving our nation," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

"President Trump has again doubled down on the side of ignorance, bigotry, intolerance, and hate," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

One other piece of news that broke on Friday night was the dismissal of controversial White House aide Sebastian Gorka, who was evidently pushed out the door by the new White House Chief of Staff.

"Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House," a White House official told the White House Pool reporter on Friday night.


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