Anti-Muslim sheriff who backed Trump appointed to Homeland Security

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David Clarke, who rose to fame for espousing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant views, accepted assistant secretary position

Clarke has voiced support for tougher policing and surveillance of Muslim neighbourhoods (AFP)
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Thursday 18 May 2017 7:36 UTC
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The highly controversial and archconservative Wisconsin sheriff David Clarke has accepted an assistant secretary position on Wednesday in the Department of Homeland Security.

Clarke told media in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he is county sheriff that he will work in the Office of Partnership and Engagement, which liaises with state and local law enforcement. 

The Department of Homeland Security would not confirm the appointment, saying that only the secretary makes such announcements, and none had been made.

Clarke, an unabashed supporter of US President Donald Trump, became famous in right-wing circles during the 2016 presidential election for his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

He has voiced support for tougher policing and surveillance of Muslim neighbourhoods, a campaign proposal that Trump backed.

On Twitter, he said the Black Lives Matter movement “will join ISIS” - using an acronym for the Islamic State (IS) group - to topple the “constitutional republic”.

As a frequent guest on Fox News, Clarke once said he was done "trying to understand the sick ideology of Islamism,” and suggested that the US “just try to kill it".

"There's no clear, coherent strategy either at the federal or the local level to do anything about this, to destroy this ideology," he added.

The controversial sheriff has also called members of Black Lives Matter “subhuman creeps,” and when Trump won the presidential election, he called protesters “goon anarchists”.

In 2015, a local Milwaukee outlet where Clarke was sheriff published a report that said the National Rifle Association (NRA), a powerful lobby in the US, paid Clarke $40,000 to visit Russia and Israel.

“Clarke's largest gift last year was his jaunt to Israel and Russia from Nov 28 to Dec 13, a trip valued at $39,940 for airfare, hotels, visas, ground transportation, meals and excursions. His expenses, including $22,452 in airfare, were picked up by the National Rifle Association Ring of Freedom; NRA First Vice President Pete Brownell, CEO of Brownells, a major gun parts supplier; and The Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun-rights group,” said the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report.

Prior to his appointment to the Department of Homeland Security, rights groups denounced Clarke, saying he supports “un-American policy proposals”.

“Given Sheriff Clarke’s history of extremist views, and his support for counterproductive and un-American policy proposals, it would be inappropriate to appoint him to any government position - let alone one involving public outreach,” said CAIR government affairs director Robert McCaw.

Clarke is known for his hard line on crime and promotion of gun rights, but he recently came under criticism after a prisoner died from dehydration in his Milwaukee jail.

On 1 May, a jury recommended that seven jail employees be charged in the April 2016 death of Terrill Thomas, 38, who was deprived of water for a week as punishment.

Local media reported Clarke was outraged when a coroner ruled the death a homicide.

Thomas was one of four people who reportedly died in the jail last year.