Government vs. Sheriff Joe

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


THOMAS PEREZ, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: All of the alleged violations outlined in the complaint are the product of a culture of disregard for basic rights within MCSO that starts at the top and pervades the entire organization.

JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTRY, ARIZONA SHERIFF: I'm not going to give it up. I am going to continue to enforce state laws and federal laws, and I look forward to going to court because then we could put our case out, and they're gonna have to put up and stop these press conferences to embarrass me, especially in an election year.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The Obama administration sued Sheriff Joe Arpaio today in federal court alleging discrimination. There you see, before the break, our question of the day asked is Sheriff Joe Arpaio a crusader or self-promoter? 97 percent in our online poll said crusader, three percent said self-promoter.

We're back with the panel. Senator Reid commented on this federal case today saying this, quote, "For many years, Sheriff Arpaio has been operating outside of our nation's laws...No one should face discrimination based on the color of their skin, their accent, or any other similar characteristics. The administration is working hard to stop the scapegoating of immigrant and Latino communities by officials like Sheriff Arpaio, but the definitive way to end this is for Congress to fix our nation's broken immigration system."

Back again with the panel. Charles, it's interesting, that statement from the Senate majority leader, they have not moved any immigration legislation.


BAIER: Or the administration hasn't proposed it. But what about Sheriff Joe?

KRAUTHAMMER: Let me say at the risk of opposing the people who have spoken in the poll -- I'm reading "A History of Jerusalem" and there were a lot of crusaders who were very good at self-promotion.


BAIER: Maybe it's a betweener.

KRAUTHAMMER: There is either/or but there is also both.

Look, I don't know the merits of the case, because I haven't heard the Arpaio side of the argument. As he said let's go to court and you will hear the two sides. But clearly what is happening here is the administration ginning up an issue on the eve of an election that it know is gonna help it, or it thinks is gonna help it, with one particular constituency. This is exactly what the Justice Department has been doing for about -- for months now. For example, the law in Texas that is challenging the voter I.D. law in Texas. It knows it's not gonna win, but it's bringing it to the court as a way to highlight an issue it calls voter suppression, which I think is a phony, but it's a way to gin up support in minorities that it says are being somehow oppressed or denied the ability to vote. It knows it's gonna lose that case. Indiana, a similar case, a voter I.D. case was upheld six to three by the Supreme Court. I think it's another case which is just for show and it's gonna have an effect injecting itself into an election. So I can't judge on the merits of it, but I know it's political intent and it's political effect.

BAIER: Mara.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well I can't judge the merits of it either, but anything that happens this close to an election that involves a kind of hot button issue like immigration and like racial profiling which he's being accused of is going to be seen through a political lens. Now, it might have some merit. We will find out when they're in court and --


BAIER: Well, let me just say a couple of specifics that the Justice Department said today in that they allege that the Arpaio deputies punished Hispanic inmates for speaking Spanish and stopped Hispanic drivers nine times more often than whites. That is part of the press conference today. But continue, sorry.

LIASSON: Yeah and those things are -- if they are true -- are offensive to many people, mostly Hispanics. But Sheriff Arpaio has become a kind of hero to people who think the immigration law should be enforced more rigorously. And I can only assume that this will be one of those trials that becomes a complete circus.

BAIER: And Judge, on the other side, there are folks who say that his investigation into the president's birth certificate and whether it was a forgery or not has sparked this action. Politics inside Washington suggest it's more about the election. But your thoughts?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Well, I read the complaint. It is well crafted. It makes very serious allegations. And if they are true or if they can be proven, they are not only offensive, they are offensive to the constitution and to federal law.

Look, the sheriff's lawyers will move to dismiss the complaint and they will probably lose that motion because on its face it makes a claim. Then they will get into discovery. And all kinds of witnesses will testify, current prisoners and former prisoners, and current sheriff's officers and former sheriff's officers, who love him and who hate him, and then they will be in court again.

The good news is this will not be resolved before Election Day. The bad news is I think there might be a jury trial in this case. I don't see there being a settlement. Whatever you think of him, he is a very tough, strong-willed guy who won't give in. I don't think you're going to see him agreeing to a court imposing a monitor in his sheriff's department who will have to approve all major decisions, which is the relief the Justice Department asks for.

BAIER: In a place like Arizona that's dealing with these issues -- the border issues, specifically the Arizona law which as we know is being challenged in the Supreme Court and you have people who look at the sheriff and saying hey listen, he is enforcing what we can enforce because the federal government is not. What about the federal issue versus the state issue on this fact?

NAPOLITANO: That is a fascinating issue that will be resolved by the Supreme Court in a month-and-a-half. We'll know the answer to that by the end of June. I don't think it will affect the outcome of this litigation legally. Politically, if the Arizona statute is upheld it's a boost to the sheriff. Politically, if the Arizona statute is struck down it's a political blow to sheriff. But the allegations against him are that even in enforcing federal law he has violated federal law.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: The court challenge on the Arizona law is further evidence of the idea, and I think it's a provable idea, that this administration, particularly the Justice Department, is conducting its litigation and challenges again for reasons of politics.

If you heard the oral arguments in that case, the solicitor general in defending the administration's position got hammered. He was wiped out. In fact the Judge, Sotomayor, who is a liberal on the court, said to him this thing isn't selling. She's a liberal. I mean it is clear that the court is going to uphold the law. But the point of the whole litigation is to make it a case, to surface the issue, to get all the coverage that a Supreme Court hearing will garner, and thus, to appeal to Hispanics, whom I would add the Obama administration has disappointed because it promised to introduce immigration legislation. Instead it did healthcare. So it's a way to cover it tracks on this issue.

BAIER: Is there a potential backlash here in the politics of this?

LIASSON: I think that it's so politicized especially on this issue, that there is a backlash on both sides. Will people see the administration as being political? Sure. Will people see this guy as being completely out of line? Yes. I just think that this one is perfectly polarized.

BAIER: Judge, thank you for being here. That's it for panel. But stay tuned for a new political ad from a candidate who is outperforming expectations.

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