David A. Clarke Jr., the controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff and right-wing provocateur who was an ardent supporter of President Trump during the 2016 campaign, will not, as he had previously claimed, take a senior role with the Department of Homeland Security. The Washington Post reports that Clarke says he has rescinded his acceptance of the DHS’s offer to join the agency as an assistant secretary, and that Clarke, a regular guest on Fox News, apparently “believes his skills could be better utilized to promote the president’s agenda in a more aggressive role” elsewhere, according to an adviser. Delays surrounding the appointment apparently contributed to his decision to withdrawal as well, according to a source close to the Trump administration who spoke with the Post.
It’s not clear what Clarke will now do instead. His adviser, Craig Peterson, told the Post that Clarke and Trump met on Tuesday in Wisconsin and discussed other ways Clarke could support the president, and that the sheriff is now “reviewing options inside and outside of government.” It’s also still not clear if Clarke was even telling the truth when he told a radio host last month that he had been offered the DHS role, as neither the White House nor the agency ever confirmed the job offer, which the sheriff had said was an appointment to the DHS “office of partnership and programs.”
Whatever Clarke does next, that it won’t be at the Department of Homeland Security is undoubtedly good news. The sheriff is a proponent of authoritarian criminal justice who has written that the DHS should adopt police-state-level power to target America’s “hundreds of thousands” of internal enemies, and he oversees a prison in Milwaukee where four people have died as a result of alleged mistreatment. The sheriff has faced two federal lawsuits over those deaths, about which he has shown no public concern, calling the reports of abuse “fake news.” Another lawsuit alleges that pregnant inmates have been mistreated at the jail.
Clarke, who is black, has also become a prominent critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, which he has described as a terrorist organization. He has said that the activists, who organize against violence and racial profiling by police, are thugs and anarchists who he predicts will “join forces with ISIS.” Clarke, who supports the use of torture and opposes habeas corpus, has also previously called for brutal crackdowns on anti-Trump protesters.
In addition to all that, according to the editors of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Clarke spent more of last year “pining for a job in the Trump administration” than doing his actual job as a county sheriff, spending 60 days of 2016 visiting 20 states, often to give paid speeches in support of Trump. A recent CNN investigation found that Clarke had plagiarized parts of his 2013 master’s thesis on U.S. security, as well.