Milwaukee sheriff's continuing links with extremist 'constitutionalists' raises concerns about his potential role as Trump's federal liaison to local law enforcement.
The apparent elevation of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to a position within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would mark another “first” of sorts for the Trump administration: It’s the first time any known participant in the antigovernment Patriot movement, let alone one of its leading figures, has ever held a federal position of any significance.
Clarke told a radio talk-show host earlier this week that he was accepting the job as assistant secretary in the Office of Partnership and Engagement at DHS, serving as a kind of liaison between local law enforcement the federal agency.
This would be a remarkable position for someone long affiliated with Richard Mack’s extremist Patriot organization, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, to hold. Among the core tenets of CSPOA dogma is the far-right “constitutionalist” belief that sheriffs represent the highest law of the land, and are capable of overturning or ignoring federal laws within their own jurisdictions. Moreover, Clarke's history of incendiary remarks includes his advocacy of "a second American revolution."
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Officials at DHS, however, were not so forthcoming. “The position mentioned is a secretarial appointment. Such senior positions are announced by the department when made official by the secretary. No such announcement with regard to the office of public engagement has been made,” it said in a released statement.
Shortly afterward, Clarke was named “Sheriff of the Year” [in 2013] by the CSPOA, a selection which provoked a piece from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Dan Bice exploring the organization’s background and radical beliefs. Clarke fired back with a press release attacking Bice and defending the CSPOA as “a group of honorable Sheriffs and officers who vow to uphold their oath of defending the U.S. Constitution.”
Joining Clarke on the CSPOA stage that year was Stewart Rhodes, whose Oath Keepers organization has a long record as a fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group. As Media Matters notes, among others attending CSPOA that year were Larry Pratt, head of the far-right Gun Owners of America; Michael Peroutka, an active member of Neo-Confederate hate group League of the South, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "chief birther" Mike Zullo.