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Donald Trump is meeting with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke at Trump Tower on Monday afternoon as he seeks to fill out his remaining Cabinet positions.
Clarke, who has called the Black Lives Matter movement “vile” and “slimy,” is reportedly in the running to lead the Department of Homeland Security and its 240,000 employees, who span immigration enforcement, the U.S. Secret Service, the TSA and other functions.
Clarke, who ran for sheriff as a Democrat, has become a hero in the conservative movement in recent years for opposing the Black Lives Matter movement and efforts to reform the criminal justice system. In a fiery July speech at the Republican National Convention, Clarke brought the crowd to its feet as he chanted “Blue Lives Matter,” a reference to police uniforms. He celebrated the acquittal of a Baltimore police officer in the death of Freddie Gray during the speech.
“These are truths that are self-evident to me, and which I practice, and they are the truths that Donald Trump understands and supports,” he said. “Donald Trump is the steadfast leader our nation needs.”
Clarke is currently in charge of about 250 officers and is the author of a soon-to-be-released memoir called “Cop Under Fire.” In it, he argues that U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism should be treated as “enemy combatants” and tried in military tribunals, not U.S. courts, according to a summary of the book in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Clarke proposed creating a new federal agency to track down homegrown terrorists that reports directly to the White House.
Like Trump, Clarke has occasionally had an adversarial relationship with the press. When questioned about a claim in his upcoming memoir by local reporter Daniel Bice, Clarke responded by email: “Bice your obsession with me is an illness and you are in need of professional help.” He said the reporter reminded him of attempted presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr., who stalked actress Jodie Foster. “Make sure you quote me on this Bice,” he added.
Trump is also reportedly considering Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, for the Homeland Security position, and is meeting with McCaul on Tuesday. On Monday, he also met with Frances Townsend, a Homeland Security official under George W. Bush, and earlier this month, Trump met with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, another contender for the role. Kobach was photographed holding a sheet of paper apparently revealing some plans for the department, which included barring all Syrian refugees from the U.S. and reinstating a registry for visitors from “high risk” countries.
Clarke first gained national attention as a dissenting voice to the bipartisan criminal justice reform movement. Ideologically diverse reformers, including President Obama and the conservative Koch brothers, sought to roll back mandatory minimum penalties for nonviolent offenses and better integrate ex-felons into society to reduce recidivism. The reformers argued that the U.S. should not imprison so many people — a bigger share of its population than any other country — for both societal and financial reasons.
Clarke argued that this was the thinking of elites who did not have to deal with the consequences of crime in their neighborhoods — a claim Trump has made, as well.
“I think this whole criminal justice reform social engineering experiment is very misguided, and in the end the consequences are hurting good, law abiding minority communities,” Clarke told Yahoo News in an interview last year. “When I hear someone say there’s too many people locked up, I say, ‘What’s the right number?’”
Clarke said the best way to reduce crime is to improve job opportunities and education for poor people while cracking down on criminals, including drug offenders. “I don’t think you artificially lower prison rates by watering down crime and by normalizing criminal behavior,” he said.