Fox News has forwarded Sheriff Joe Arpaio's claim that he is cooperating with a Department of Justice investigation into charges of racial profiling, and that the investigation is politically motivated. However, Arpaio's own lawyer has reportedly acknowledged that they have not fully cooperated, and the inquiry began during the Bush administration.
DOJ files suit against Arpaio for not fully complying with investigation
On September 2, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County, Arizona, the county's Sheriff's Office, and its sheriff, Joe Arpaio, over the defendants' alleged "refusal to cooperate with reasonable requests for information" in the DOJ's investigation of "alleged national origin discrimination" in Maricopa County. According to the complaint, the "preliminary inquiry" into whether Arpaio's department has discriminated on the basis of national origin in its police practices and jail procedures began in June 2008, under the Bush administration. The "investigation" was announced in March 2009.
Fox News whitewashes Arpaio's refusal to fully cooperate with the investigation
York on Your World: Arpaio and his lawyers "maintain that they have cooperated fully and they've given the Justice Department everything." Your World with Neil Cavuto guest host Stuart Varney hosted the Washington Examiner's Byron York on September 3 to discuss the lawsuit filed against Sheriff Arapaio. York stated that Arpaio and his lawyers "maintain that they have cooperated fully and they've given the Justice Department everything."
Cavuto hosts Arpaio to claim "[W]e've been cooperating recently ... What else can we do?" Sheriff Arpaio appeared as a guest on the September 2 edition ofYour World with Neil Cavuto. On the program, Arpaio claimed that the lawsuit is politically motivated and that it came as a surprise because his lawyers had been "cooperating recently" with the Justice Department. Arpaio also suggested that the DOJ had planned the suit despite his office's cooperation "to embarrass me and embarrass the people of Arizona." Cavuto did not push back against this statement, instead immediately changing the topic to the movie Machete and stating, "This must not be an easy time for you, Sheriff."
Ingraham forwards claim that the lawsuit "is really nothing more than an attempt by Washington to intimidate anyone who is on the side of enforcing" immigration laws. Filling in for Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor, Laura Ingraham introduced the premise of the DOJ's lawsuit, then quipped, "Funny, since the Feds don't believe illegals should be forced to provide documents to the police to prove they're here legally as we saw in their lawsuit earlier this summer against Arizona." When her guest, Susan Church, an immigration attorney, stated that Arpaio had refused "for 15 months to provide documents that he's legally required to hand over to the federal government," Ingraham responded:
INGRAHAM: Yes, well, I think what his office has said, Susan, is that, you know, this allegation against him is really nothing more than an attempt by Washington to intimidate anyone who is on the side of enforcing these laws. And your comments about the sweep are frankly not born out by any evidence in the public domain. This is circumstantial, hearsay evidence that you're floating on FOX to tar this man's reputation.
He has a right to pull people over who he believes with probable cause are violating the law. At that point, his argument is that, well, they check immigration status as he was allowed to do when he was allowed to do it. Okay? That's what his argument is.
Arpaio reportedly not cooperating "to the extent requested by the investigators"
Arpaio's attorney reportedly told DOJ to "Drop dead" on some document requests. The Arizona Republic reported on August 5 that Arpaio's office said it will not cooperate with the entirety of the DOJ investigation because it believes it has no obligation to do so:
[Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas] Perez released a letter to Arpaio on Tuesday that threatened the Sheriff's Office with a lawsuit if Arpaio's agency failed to cooperate with the investigation into allegations that Arpaio's deputies have a "pattern and practice" of targeting Hispanic residents because of their race.
The Thursday afternoon reply by Arpaio's attorney, Robert Driscoll, stresses that the Sheriff's Office has cooperated with the investigation in the portion that deals with discrimination in county jails. The sheriff's refusal to cooperate is tied only to a portion of the investigation looking into the patterns and practices of deputies on the street.
"The record's pretty clear that they set (the investigation) up as two distinct things, and on ... the jail stuff, we've cooperated," Driscoll said. "With respect to the other stuff, we've said 'Drop dead', essentially, because they've never said what they want."
AZ Republic: "Arpaio's team believes the investigation into jail conditions is the only piece of the investigation with which the Sheriff's Office is obligated to cooperate." The Republic reported on August 14 that the Justice Department investigation into Arpaio's office is examining both police practices on the street and county jail practices. The report further stated that "Arpaio's team believes the investigation into jail conditions is the only piece of the investigation with which the Sheriff's Office is obligated to cooperate":
When the Justice Department announced its civil-rights probe in March 2009, it came with a letter indicating there were actually two investigations taking place: one dealing with access to services for county jail inmates who don't speak English well, the other dealing with racial profiling on the street.
The parties involved still cannot agree on which parts of the civil-rights investigation concern conditions in the jails and which deal with the street-level enforcement. The work of sheriff's deputies has led to claims of racial profiling when Arpaio conducts immigration-enforcement operations.
The cooperation comes thanks to a federal law that allows federal investigators access to records and facilities for organizations that receive federal funding. The risk of not complying is that federal funding could be taken away.
The Sheriff's Office believes that section of law, known as Title VI, applies only to the investigation into jail conditions.
"The issue I raised is: To what extent does the Title VI investigation overlap with the police-practices investigation?" asked Robert Driscoll, an Arpaio attorney. "We're willing to cooperate with a legitimate Title VI investigation."
County administrators believe Arpaio's refusal to cooperate with any aspect of the Justice Department's investigation could put the county at an increased risk of losing federal funding - and put Maricopa County taxpayers at risk.
This week's letter exchange marks the most recent round of note passing among attorneys for the county, Arpaio and the Justice Department.
Earlier this month, Perez sent Arpaio a letter saying his department could sue the Sheriff's Office if Arpaio refuses to turn over documents related to the investigation. Arpaio's attorney responded days later saying that the Sheriff's Office is cooperating with the jail investigation, as it is obligated to do, and reiterated the agency's refusal to cooperate with the street-enforcement investigation.
Arpaio's attorney reportedly "agreed to cooperate but not to the extent requested by investigators." The Republic reported on September 3 that "Attorneys for the Sheriff's Office repeatedly have said they were cooperating with the civil-rights probe but set conditions on the breadth of documents they would release and when." The article further reported that in a letter sent to the Department of Justice last week, Robert Driscoll, an attorney for Arpaio, "agreed to cooperate but not to the extent requested by the investigators." From the September 3 article:
Attorneys for the Sheriff's Office repeatedly have said they were cooperating with the civil-rights probe but set conditions on the breadth of documents they would release and when. Last week, a sheriff's attorney said in a letter to the Justice Department that he had not agreed to their deadlines.
On Thursday, federal officials made good on their threat to sue. Justice Department officials could not point to a case within the past 30 years in which they had to sue a law-enforcement department to provide access to information.
Dennis Burke, U.S. attorney for Arizona, said that Arpaio's behavior is "self-serving" and pointed out that the Sheriff's Office is legally obligated to provide access to records and facilities because the office receives federal money.
The complaint details the back-and-forth discussions between the Sheriff's Office and the Justice Department, culminating in Driscoll's letter last week. In that letter, he agreed to cooperate but not to the extent requested by the investigators.
Driscoll had met with Justice Department officials just days earlier. In a memo of that meeting, a chief in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division detailed the records that must be produced and asked to tour six jails and interview staff about a range of issues, including intake and booking procedures, and language and interpretation services. Investigators also requested documents related to arrests dating to January 2008.
The attorney asked the Justice Department to be more specific about what it wanted and indicated he would not make a Sept. 10 deadline.
Burke said Driscoll's response triggered the lawsuit. "The letter contradicts what they said in the meeting," he said.
NY Times: DOJ "issued 51 requests for documents, most of which Sheriff Arpaio's department ignored." The New York Times reported on September 2:
The Justice Department issued 51 requests for documents, most of which Sheriff Arpaio's department ignored, as well as asking for tours of department facilities and interviews with commanders, staff members and inmates.
Sheriff Arpaio, who has denied that he engages in racial profiling, has remained defiant of the government's investigation. His lawyers have repeatedly refused to provide the documents sought by the Justice Department or provide unfettered access to its facilities.
DOJ complaint outlines timeline of document requests. According to the complaint, the Justice Department issued 51 requests for documents on March 25, 2009, and Arpaio's office provided only some of the documents before stating that it would not cooperate with the investigation. The complaint states that Arpaio's office then offered "limited cooperation" and produced a document in June 2010 that was "fully responsive to only two of the fifty-one requests." On August 24, DOJ met with Arpaio's office and then "clarified and narrowed the scope of the two document requests as to which MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff's Office] had requested clarification." According to the complaint, Arpaio's office responded with an August 27 letter stating that it would not fully cooperate with the investigation.