On Wednesday afternoon, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke announced he is leaving his current position to take a job in the Trump administration.
BREAKING: @SheriffClarke announces he will "accept an appointment as an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security."
— Alan Neuhauser (@alneuhauser) May 17, 2017
During the presidential campaign, Clarke was one of Trump’s most vocal supporters. But as he traveled the country speaking on Trump’s behalf and made regular appearances on Fox News last year, four inmates died at the Milwaukee County Jail he oversees.
The family of Terrill Thomas, a mentally ill inmate who died of dehydration after officers reportedly shut off his water, has since sued. A prosecutor’s inquest recently resulted in charges being recommended against seven jail employees involved in Thomas’ death. But when Clarke was asked about Thomas’ death in March, he criticized the media for not devoting more coverage to his crimes.
“I have nearly 1,000 inmates. I don’t know all their names but is this the guy who was in custody for shooting up the Potawatomi Casino causing one man to be hit by gunfire while in possession of a firearm by a career convicted felon?” Clarke told the AP. “The media never reports that in stories about him. If that is him, then at least I know who you are talking about.”
Last month, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved spending $35,000 to sue Clarke for blocking an investigation.
Clarke’s office was hit was a separate lawsuit earlier this year by a woman named Melissa Hall who claims she was shackled before, during, and after childbirth at a local hospital in 2013. A newborn baby was among the four people who died at Clarke’s jail last year.
Yet Trump considered Clarke for the position of Secretary of Homeland Security anyway. While he was under consideration in the weeks after the election, Clarke tweeted that “there is no legitimate reason” to protest Trump’s victory, adding that “temper tantrum from these radical anarchists must be quelled.”
These temper tantrums from these radical anarchists must be quelled. There is no legitimate reason to protest the will of the people. pic.twitter.com/G502pwNSN9
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) November 10, 2016
That tweet stood in contrast to Clarke’s position just a month earlier. While Trump was struggling to recover from being caught on tape bragging about sexual assault, Clarke called for “pitchforks and torches” to protest the country’s “corrupt” institutions.
It's incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time pic.twitter.com/8G5G0daGVN
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) October 15, 2016
Days after that tweet was posted, Clarke appeared on Fox News and said, “There is no police brutality in America. We ended that back in the ‘60s.” (Nearly 1,000 people died at the hands of American police officers last year.)
David Clarke is not just a terrible sheriff, he's an awful human being.
These are 37 of the most embarrassing seconds you could ever see. pic.twitter.com/e1qqUfjugh
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) May 17, 2017
That sort of incendiary language was nothing new for Clarke. He blamed protests that erupted in Milwaukee last August, following the fatal police shooting of Sylville Smith, on “the growth of the underclass.” In 2015, he called for suspending the constitutional rights of Americans who are “on the internet spewing jihadi rhetoric,” rounding them up, and detaining them “indefinitely at Gitmo.” He’s also compared Black Lives Matter with terrorists.
Before long, Black Lies Matter will join forces with ISIS to being down our legal constituted republic. You heard it first here.
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) October 28, 2015
The month after posting that tweet, Clarke did a radio interview where he opined on “blacks” more generally.
“Let me tell you why blacks sell drugs and involve themselves in criminal behavior instead of a more socially acceptable lifestyle — because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt,” Clarke said. “That’s why.”
The next month, Clarke made a mysterious NRA-funded trip to Moscow and met with a deputy of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Since Trump’s election, Clarke has mocked women who participated in anti-Trump marches the day after the inauguration.
In D.C. a day AFTER the inaugural. Women's march. An absolute freak show. P-T Barnum should have delayed the announcement to shut down. pic.twitter.com/b89oIFQoFF
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) January 21, 2017
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) May 17, 2017
On Wednesday, Clarke told a Wisconsin radio host his role with the Trump administration will be assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. Under Obama, people in similar roles handled the intergovernmental response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and worked on containing the swine flu outbreak. An Obama administration official tweeted that Clarke will be taking his old job and said he’s skeptical the controversial sheriff has the skills to succeed.
— Phil McNamara (@philindc) May 17, 2017
The job is massive, the issues are complex and nuanced, and requires political tact and ability to build relationships, he can't do that
— Phil McNamara (@philindc) May 17, 2017
The ACLU quickly came out in opposition to Clarke’s new position as well.
Last year, the DOJ was going to investigate Sheriff David Clarke. Now, he's going to help run the DHS. pic.twitter.com/RdrbA4mkO0
— ACLU National (@ACLU) May 17, 2017
Clarke’s appointment isn’t subject to Senate confirmation, however. As news of it swirled on Wednesday, Milwaukee County Executive Chrie Abele said, “I’ve said repeatedly that MKE deserves better than Sheriff Clarke. America does, too.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel associate editorial page editor wrote that Clarke’s departure “will be good for [the] department and Milwaukee County.”
“It’s good that Clarke is leaving, and we hope he can do a better job in Homeland Security than he ever did here. We’ll be watching to see,” Ernst-Ulrich Franzen wrote. “Clearly, he lost interest in being sheriff long ago and was no longer doing the job that voters elected him to do. But before he goes, Clarke owes this community an explanation for the four deaths that occurred in the jail last year. Voters deserve at least that much.”