‘Constitutional sheriffs’: Inside one far-right sheriff’s crusade to prove Trump’s bogus voter-fraud claims

By | July 29, 2022

Reuters reports:

Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was rigged has been decisively debunked by local election officials, state and federal courts, and the former president’s own attorney general. All deemed his case bogus.

Here in Michigan’s rural Barry County, Sheriff Dar Leaf rejects all that.

Since late 2020, Leaf has been investigating one of Trump’s most fantastical false assertions – that vote-counting machines somehow flipped votes from Trump to Democrat Joe Biden. Working with key figures in the former president’s failed effort to overturn the election, the Republican sheriff has petitioned courts seeking to seize election equipment, assigned investigators to grill local clerks about balloting processes and made sweeping requests for their records. The sheriff is barreling ahead despite the conclusions of judges and the county’s Republican prosecutor that he lacked probable cause.

In the process, Leaf is roiling conservative Barry County, where Trump won decisively, and testing a legal theory with revolutionary implications for American democracy.

Leaf is in the vanguard of the so-called “constitutional sheriffs” movement, which asserts that sheriffs, typically elected in counties, possess supreme law-enforcement power in their jurisdictions – exceeding that of state police, federal agencies and any other official, including the U.S. president. The movement’s most prominent group, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, takes the extreme position that sheriffs can and should ignore any law they deem unconstitutional.

Richard Mack, the association’s founder, called federal and state bureaucracies “the Gestapo of America” that routinely adopt unconstitutional policies. “The sheriffs are going to have to stop it,” said Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, at the association’s conference in Las Vegas earlier this month.

The association claims sheriffs derive extraordinary powers from the oath they take to defend the constitution and its principle of separation of powers between local, state and federal agencies. Two constitutional scholars interviewed by Reuters dismissed that theory, saying it has no basis in the founding document or in U.S. history.

In May, the association announced that it’s encouraging sheriffs to mount their own investigations into Trump’s 2020 election fraud claims. So far, Leaf is one of four known to have launched such probes. But the movement appears to be growing; the association says more than 300 of the nation’s 3,000 elected sheriffs have gone through its training programs since 2020. [Continue reading…]

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