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National Govt & Politics

    A government whistleblower has filed a complaint alleging that some federal workers did not have the necessary protective gear or training when they were deployed to help Americans evacuated from China during the coronavirus outbreak. The complaint deals with Health and Human Services Department employees sent to Travis and March Air Force bases in California to assist the quarantined evacuees. The Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates personnel issues, confirmed Thursday it has received the unnamed whistleblower's complaint and has opened a case. The office of Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez of California said the complaint was filed by a high-ranking official at the Administration for Children and Families, an HHS agency. The whistleblower was among a team of about a dozen employees from the agency who had been deployed to help connect the evacuees with social services that they might qualify for. The team was there from mid-January until earlier this month. Although team members had gloves at times and at other times masks, they lacked full protective gear and received no training on how to protect themselves in a viral hot zone, according to a description provided by the congressional office. They had no respirators. While helping the evacuees, team members noticed that workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were in full gear to protect them from getting sick. Gomez's office said the high-ranking whistleblower complained to superiors and was given the choice of being reassigned or being fired. None of the workers from the agency has become infected with the virus. Without referring directly to the complaint, Gomez questioned HHS Secretary Alex Azar about the situation during a congressional hearing Thursday. “Were any of these ACF employees exposed to high-risk evacuees?” asked Gomez, adding it was his understanding that 'it was kind of chaotic on the ground' when the team was sent to California. Azar responded that he was not aware of any violation of quarantine or isolation requirements. “Urgency does not compensate for violating isolation and quarantine protocols,” he said. “I'd want to know the full facts and would take appropriate remedial measures,” Azar added. Ari Wilkenfeld, a lawyer representing the unidentified whistleblower, said in a statement: “This matter concerns HHS’ response to the coronavirus, and its failure to protect its employees and potentially the public. The retaliatory efforts to intimidate and silence our client must be opposed.” HHS did not respond to requests for comment. The whistleblower complaint was first reported by The Washington Post. ___ Associated Press writer Carole Feldman contributed to this report.
  • Cherokee citizens are calling on Elizabeth Warren to publicly disavow a family story of indigenous heritage as a way to dissuade others from making false claims they say often romanticize Native Americans. The topic has haunted the Massachusetts senator since even before she announced she would seek the Democratic nomination for president, despite Warren repeatedly apologizing for identifying as Native American in the past and for submitting a DNA test to back up what she heard growing up. More than 200 tribal citizens reignited the debate this week, signing a letter to Warren that said her apologies are vague and don't address the harm she's caused. Warren quickly responded to the letter with another apology. She said she is willing to stand with Indian Country in ways that others haven't, pointing to her track record and other tribal members who have praised her work. Joseph M. Pierce, one of four Cherokee Nation citizens who organized the letter, said Warren didn't go far enough in addressing her family's story about connections to the Delaware and Cherokee people. “We think that she has an opportunity to stand up and to show other people that it's OK to speak the truth about this history, even though that may be emotionally difficult ... because it strikes at the core of who she thought she was,” Pierce, an associate professor at Stony Brook University in New York, said Thursday. Warren's campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Warren grew up in Oklahoma, which is home to 39 federally recognized tribes. As she was preparing her presidential run in late 2018, she released the results of a DNA test performed by a Stanford professor that indicated she had a distant indigenous ancestor from the Americas. The test was meant to answer critics, including President Donald Trump, who accused Warren of making false claims about her past. But the move backfired, as Trump continued to gleefully deride Warren using the racial slur “Pocahontas,” and many tribal leaders rejected the test as a false and biased way to measure Native American heritage. Warren appeared to have succeeded in putting the issue behind her as she rode a sharp rise in the polls to become one of the Democratic presidential primary front-runners. She finished third in Iowa and fared even worse in New Hampshire, raising questions about how much longer she will remain in the race. More people claim ties to Cherokee than any other tribe, according to the U.S. census, which doesn't reconcile figures with tribal enrollment offices. The reason is threefold, said Circe Sturm, the author of “Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-first Century.” The Cherokee Nation adopted white standards of civilization, trying to secure its sovereignty by mimicking European governments and creating a constitution. Cherokees intermarried with whites for much longer than other tribes, which was partly strategic for both sides, Sturm said. Cherokee enrollment policies that rely on lineage also are more lenient than those of tribes that rely solely on blood quantum, Sturm said. “All of those things make being physically white, or white-acting, more comfortable to claim Cherokee,” she said Thursday. Pierce said the claims often romanticize Native people and allow non-Natives to feel more American without having to engage with Native communities or address historic atrocities against Native Americans, he said. The Cherokee citizens' letter urged Warren to set an example and confront her family's oral history while working with tribal nations to provide guidance to others who might similar family stories. “It's not about one election, it's about the future of our communities, and she can play a part in that,” Pierce said. Warren has said her claims of Native American ancestry were part of “family lore.' She said she never sought membership in any tribe and reiterated in her letter this week that only tribal nations, not DNA tests, determine citizenship. She said she never benefited financially or professionally from her claims of being indigenous and acknowledged not everyone will accept her apologies. She said she would “strive to be a friend to tribal nations.' Pierce acknowledged that Warren has listened and learned from Indian Country and that her platform includes issues that matter to Native people. Warren pledged to defend a federal law that seeks to keep Native American children in foster care or adoption proceedings in Native homes, and uphold tribes as sovereign political entities, rather than racial groups. She has supported giving tribes full criminal jurisdiction on tribal land. As is, federally recognized tribes that meet certain requirements, can assert criminal jurisdiction over non-Natives in limited domestic violence cases. Warren also has joined other Democrats in pushing to restore the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah that Trump reduced, and urging protection from mineral development at other sites Native Americans consider sacred in northwestern New Mexico and eastern Arizona. ___ Associated Pres writer Will Weissert in Washington contributed to this report. Fonseca is a member of The Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FonsecaAP
  • The Trump administration moved Thursday on a water-recycling push it says could get good use out of more of the wastewater that industries, cities and farms spew out, including the billions of barrels of watery waste generated by oil and gas fields each year. Some environmental groups eye the effort suspiciously, fearing the Trump administration will use the project to allow businesses to offload hazardous wastewater in ways that threaten drinking water sources and otherwise risk public health. Businesses including oil and gas developers have urged the Trump administration to allow them more ways to get rid of their increasing volumes of wastewater. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler were on hand for the launch of what they called an action plan for water reuse nationwide. President Donald Trump — who has pushed to make work easier for oil and gas developers and direct more water to farmers — triggered the effort in a 2018 memo. The effort “frames the business case that water reuse is a viable and growing means of supporting our economy and improving the availability of freshwater,” the EPA said in a statement Thursday. Short on details, the plan sketches out state, federal and tribal and local efforts looking at the policies, rules, research and possible uses in reclaiming and using more stormwater, rainfall and wastewater left over from farms, factories and coolant systems, wastewater plants, and oil and gas production. It includes finishing a study that will support consideration of “potential regulatory and nonregulatory approaches” to reusing oilfield wastewater by April, the EPA said. Uses for some of the wastewater overall could include watering crops, treating it for use as drinking water, and refilling underground water aquifers being drained by heavy pumping, the plan says. “Wastewater from the fracking process is certainly at the top of our minds,” Wheeler said, in looking to boost reuse of what industry calls produced water. Drinking water standards and other laws and rules limit the ways that farms, cities and oil and gas developers, among others, can get rid of their wastewater. The fluids are often tainted with brine, chemicals, metals or other byproducts. The industry practice of pumping oilfield wastewater back underground has raised fears of contamination of drinking-water reserves in some states. In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Geological Survey and other scientists earlier in the decade linked a surge in earthquakes with the 1.5 billion barrels of wastewater that the oil and gas industry was disposing of by pumping back underground. In California, initial projects watering orchards and some other crops with water that includes oilfield wastewater. “The Trump administration is trying to prop up the oil and gas industry by greenlighting more ways to dump vast amounts of waste fluid that’s often toxic and even radioactive,' said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
  • Democratic White House hopefuls are seizing on President Donald Trump’s delayed response to the coronavirus outbreak, calling it the latest evidence of his incompetence and warning that the crisis may only deepen as a result. But some experts and Democrats warn that the candidates risk exacerbating a public health crisis if they go too far in politicizing the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness. Former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar all went after Trump during their CNN town halls Wednesday night. A number of the candidates have released their own pandemic policies, and Bloomberg is even airing an ad contrasting Trump’s response to the outbreak to his own handling of the aftermath of 9/11. It’s a potent political issue, as it gets at what Democrats see as two major potential weaknesses for Trump: questions about his competence as president and health care issues. “The threat from coronavirus and the chaos of the administration is front and center in everyone’s mind,” said Jesse Ferguson, a longtime Democratic strategist and former spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “Not talking about it means you’re missing voters who are deeply worried about the public health threat and deeply concerned about the Trump administration’s incompetence.” Warren, Klobuchar and Bloomberg have all released public health plans detailing how they’d address and prevent similar outbreaks as president. During their CNN town halls, Warren warned that the economic impact of the new coronavirus could get worse. She and Klobuchar slammed Trump’s decision to put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus response, noting his controversial handling of an HIV outbreak in Indiana when he was governor. And Biden has previously slammed Trump for “hysterical xenophobia and fearmongering” rather than respecting science on the issue. But sounding the alarm on the administration’s coronavirus response also holds risks. Florida Rep. Donna Shalala, who served as secretary of health and human services under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, had a stark warning for Democrats. “Don’t open your mouth until you know what you’re talking about. This is politics. They need to listen to the scientists as well,” she said. That is a major criticism Democrats have lobbed at Trump — that he has botched his response and fostered more confusion by publicly contradicting the scientists in his administration about the severity of the virus. On Wednesday, the president sought to minimize fears at a White House press conference where he insisted the U.S. is “very, very ready” for an outbreak and predicted: “This will end…there’s no reason to be panicked.” But standing next to him, the health officials in charge of handling the outbreak predicted more cases are coming in the U.S. Democrats are not immune to the critique themselves, however. During Tuesday night’s primary debate, both Biden and Bloomberg made the erroneous claim that Trump cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While Trump proposed cuts to the CDC in his budget blueprint, he was overruled by Congress, and the eventual budget he signed included an increase in funding. Biden corrected his comments during Wednesday night’s CNN town hall but went on to warn that Trump “did not have a plan to deal with how you equip hospitals.” Bloomberg, meanwhile, criticized Trump at a Houston rally on Thursday, accusing him of 'burying his head in the sand' and charging that “his failure to prepare is crippling our ability to respond.' But the public health system has a playbook to follow for pandemic preparation — regardless of who’s president or whether specific instructions are coming from the White House. Those plans were put into place in anticipation of another flu pandemic but are designed to work for any respiratory-borne disease. Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, warned that “any time political ideology starts to dominate the dialogue, it puts the public at risk.” “The history of good public health is that when things become politicized, we risk a good sound response and a response based on science and expertise,” she said. “This is a situation that’s changing by the moment, and that makes it all the more delicate.” Kates warned that there should be some “caution around not stoking panic and not using the partisan environment to steer away from basic public health messaging” — but acknowledged that will be tough “in a very partisan time, during campaign season.” Both parties are guilty of politicizing public health pandemics when they’re not the party in charge of the White House, she noted. During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Republicans routinely slammed the Obama administration for similar critiques Trump is facing from Democrats — namely, that he was too slow to respond and didn’t appoint an adviser to coordinate the government’s response quickly enough. But Kathleen Sebelius, who served as Obama’s secretary of health and human services from 2009 to 2014, said Democrats have a lot more to criticize when it comes to Trump’s response. “We have the components of what could be a perfect storm. Are there ways to deal with it calmly and rationally? You bet. Is the United States well prepared? It seems like there are some gaps,” she said. She pointed to the fact that the initial White House funding request was just a fraction of what had been allocated for past viral outbreaks like Ebola, and Trump himself has largely left it up to Congress to sort out the details. She also noted that a number of key positions set up by Obama to deal with global pandemics have now either been eliminated or left vacant, and she called out Trump for contradicting his own scientists on the severity of the threat. Shalala agreed — but she warned Democrats to be “careful” to focus their critiques on the president and not the experts in the administration who are trying to tackle the crisis. “There are things that they can criticize, like the inadequate funding request and the president muddying the waters” at his press conference, she said, “but they shouldn’t be criticizing the agency heads and the very good scientist physicians that are trying to do their jobs.” But some Democrats say the conversation around the coronavirus is fair game because it gets at a much broader issue for Trump: questions surrounding his leadership. “Electing a president isn’t about a series of issue check boxes on a spreadsheet. It’s about the public’s confidence that you can lead the country, especially in times of crisis,” Ferguson said. “If we can’t demonstrate the fundamental failure of this administration to lead in this crisis, then we are not talking about the thing that people think about when electing a president.” ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • A professor at the University of Tennessee has been arrested on charges that he hid his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving research grants from the federal government, the Justice Department said Thursday. Anming Hu, an associate professor in the department of mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering at the university's flagship Knoxville campus, was charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements. After the indictment was announced, the university said Hu had been suspended and that school officials had cooperated. “University leadership is fully committed to adherence to grant procedures and the protection of intellectual property,' the school said in a statement. The arrest is part of a broader Justice Department crackdown against university researchers who conceal their ties to Chinese institutions, with a Harvard chemistry professor recently arrested on similar charges. Federal officials have also asserted that Beijing is intent on stealing intellectual property from America's colleges and universities, and have actively been warning schools to be on alert against espionage attempts. Prosecutors say Hu defrauded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by failing to disclose the fact that he was also a professor at the Beijing University of Technology in China. Under federal law, NASA cannot fund or give grant money to Chinese-owned companies or universities. According to the indictment, as the University of Tennessee last December was preparing a proposal on Hu's behalf for a NASA-funded project, Hu provided false assurances to the school that he was not part of any business collaboration involving China. In addition, prosecutors say, a curriculum vitae that Hu submitted when he applied for a tenured faculty position with the university omitted any affiliation with the Beijing university. “This is just the latest case involving professors or researchers concealing their affiliations with China from their American employers and the U.S. government,' Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department's top national security official, said in a statement. “We will not tolerate it.” A federal defender assigned to represent Hu declined to comment. ____
  • Frustrated Democrats again lambasted Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell Thursday as they marked a year of Senate inaction since the House passed landmark gun control legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged that Democrats have been here before — complaining about McConnell's “legislative graveyard' — but she said Democrats were energized to “accelerate a drumbeat” on calls for McConnell to allow a Senate vote on a House-passed bill to expand background checks for gun purchases. McConnell's name came up repeatedly at a raucous House ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of the House bill. Speaking a day after a gunman killed five people at a Milwaukee brewery, Pelosi said McConnell was giving new meaning to his self-described nickname as the “grim reaper” of Democratic legislation. “It's very sad that the Grim Reaper has decided that more people will die because he is the Grim Reaper,'' Pelosi said. ”One hundred people a day die from gun violence. Not all of them could be saved by this legislation, but many could.'' More than 39,000 people were killed by firearms in 2018, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a number that advocates said translates into more than 100 gun-related deaths per day. More than 60 percent of gun deaths are by suicide, with a small number of accidental deaths. The death toll includes thousands of children under 18 killed by firearms, a number Pelosi called haunting. Addressing McConnell directly, Pelosi asked: “Why do think your political survival is more important than the survival of our children? Give us a vote.’’ Her words were met by thunderous applause from lawmakers, advocates and survivors of gun violence gathered in an ornate room outside the House chamber. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also drew applause when he scolded President Donald Trump for offering mere condolences after the country's latest mass shooting. An employee at one of the nation's largest breweries gunned down five co-workers in Milwaukee Wednesday before killing himself. “Enough words!” Schumer shouted. “How about a little action” on gun control? Under McConnell's leadership, the Senate has taken up “zero” gun-related legislation since the House passed the background checks bill last February, Schumer said. He and others made circles with their fingers and held them up to demonstrate the Senate's inaction. A spokesman for McConnell declined to comment. In the past, McConnell has dismissed Democrats' call for gun-control legislation as “theatrics.” McConnell refuses to allow a vote on the background checks bill because he says it's not clear the Senate would be able to pass the legislation or that Trump would sign it into law. For Democratic leaders, 'It's all about trying to scare people,' McConnell said in September after a similar Democratic news conference. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said McConnell and other Republicans should get used to the idea of Democrats speaking up about gun safety. “We're building a political movement, and it is coming to get every single Republican who votes against this” bill on background checks, he said. “Either you are with 90% of the American people (who support expanded background checks) or you are with the NRA,'' Murphy said, referring the National Rifle Association, the gun industry's top lobbying group. If McConnell continues 'to allow the NRA to be in charge of the Senate ... he is going to be the minority leader very soon,'' Murphy said. 'If that,'' a supporter yelled. McConnell faces a well-funded challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath in Kentucky. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., also focused on McConnell, citing statistics from the nonpartisan Gun Violence Archive that 232 Kentucky residents were killed by gun violence in the year since the House approved the background checks bill. 'We are here today because Americans are dying, and more die every day because Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans lack the spine to stand up to the NRA,'' Kelly said. Kelly, who represents Chicago, said her state and city have strong gun safety laws, but neighboring states do not. 'We need universal background checks legislation to stop Indiana and Wisconsin guns from killing kids in Chicago,'' she said, citing statistics that more than half the guns used in crimes in Chicago come from out of state. After back-to-back mass shootings in Ohio and Texas last summer, Trump embraced calls for “strong background checks” — only to backpedal. Ideas the administration has considered include so-called red-flag legislation to allow officials to take away guns from people believed to be dangers to themselves or others and quicker imposition of the death penalty for mass shooters. Little progress has been made, and gun control supporters do not expect major legislation to emerge before the presidential election. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Trump has embraced the mantle of gun rights champion, repeatedly warning supporters at his rallies that Democrats “will take your guns away.” Last month, he labeled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam a “whack job” as the Democratic governor moves to tighten gun laws following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach.
  • U.S. authorities have arrested the daughter of a fugitive Mexican drug kingpin, who was in Washington to attend her brother's trial. Jessica Johanna Oseguera was arrested at the D.C. federal courthouse Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. After her arrest, she was presented with a secret sealed indictment from Feb. 13. Jessica Oseguera is being charged with doing business with five business entities that have been declared off-limits by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control for “providing material support to the international narcotics trafficking activities” to the cartel, according to a Justice Department statement. Her brother, Ruben Oseguera, 30, has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges relating to conspiracy to distribute narcotics. If convicted, he faces at least 15 years in prison. His trial begins on Friday. Their father, Nemesio Oseguera, Alias, 'El Mencho,” is the reputed head of the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel, a large and very violent drug-dealing gang. He remains a fugitive, with the U.S. government offering $10 million for information leading to his arrest. A dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, Jessica Oseguera remains in U.S. custody and faces a detention hearing on Tuesday, March 2. ___ Associated Press writer Mike Balsamo contributed to this report.
  • Billionaire Mike Bloomberg said Thursday that he might not spend money to assist Bernie Sanders if Sanders is the Democratic presidential nominee, a walk back of previous comments that he would use his fortune to boost whoever faces President Donald Trump in November. Bloomberg's comments come after Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver said several days ago that it would be a “hard no” on accepting Bloomberg's financial assistance. “What do you mean, I'm going to send a check to somebody and they're not going to cash the check? I think I wouldn't bother to send the check,” Bloomberg told the Houston Chronicle on Thursday. The back-and-forth is part of a larger escalation between the two campaigns as a slew of Tuesday primaries approach, marking the first time Bloomberg will appear on ballots. Fourteen states vote on “Super Tuesday,” and Bloomberg is hoping he can pick up enough delegates to blunt Sanders' rise. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, is worth an estimated $60 billion, wealth built from the financial data and media company he started in the 1980s. He's already spent more than $500 million on his presidential campaign. But he's pledged to keep campaign offices open and staffed in general election battleground states through the fall. “I said that I would help, I'm going to keep our campaign offices, the main ones anyways, open until Nov. 3,” Bloomberg told the Chronicle. “And if they don't want to use them, then fine. Then we'll close them.” It's a reversal from his comments in a CNN town hall on Wednesday, when Bloomberg was asked specifically if he would give financial help to Sanders. He committed that he would keep the offices open so whoever is the nominee can use them. Asked to clarify the campaign's position, Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said “we'll see” on whether Bloomberg spends on Sanders' behalf. For Sanders, Bloomberg serves as a clear foil in his argument that the American economy is skewed in favor of billionaires who can manipulate the system in a way regular Americans cannot. Weaver said the Sanders campaign would rather rely on small-dollar donations. Also on Thursday, Bloomberg's campaign released new details about his cardio health and urged the Sanders campaign to do the same. A letter signed by Bloomberg’s doctor says he underwent cardiac stress testing and an echocardiogram in July. It shows normal function of his left ventricular, “excellent exercise capacity,” and a left ventricular ejection fraction of 60 to 65%, which is in the normal range. The letter notes that Bloomberg had a stent placed for a blocked coronary artery in 2000. Sanders' health has been under scrutiny since he suffered a heart attack in October. Both men are 78. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • A bit hoarse and with an occasional cough, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg returned to the political fray Thursday, resuming a whirlwind schedule after taking a half-day to rest after getting hit with a bad cold. “Excuse me, I've had my own health moment,” Buttigieg said, prompting chuckles during a panel discussion with black leaders in Greenville, South Carolina, about racial health care disparities. With a bit more color in his cheeks since stepping away from public campaigning Wednesday, Buttigieg was starting the windup to Saturday's South Carolina primary. For him, the contest is an important test of his strength in attracting black voters. In South Carolina, he started by taking questions from community health service leaders and discussing his proposal to roll back decades of racial economic inequality by allocating federal dollars heavily to underserved minority communities. “This is not about doing anybody a favor,” Buttigieg told the 10 people on either side of him in Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church. “This is about fixing something that was broken on purpose.” The illness, first evident during regular bouts of coughing during Tuesday's debate in Charleston, prompted the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to scrub a day of fundraising in Florida on Wednesday, though aides said the money from the events had already been pledged. Buttigieg then spent the night in Washington, D.C., where he met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus and sat for televised interviews with stations in March 3 primary states. Buttigieg has asked supporters to help him raise $13 million to be competitive through Super Tuesday, when 14 states hold primaries. On Thursday, the campaign reported he had met 45% of the goal. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • An appeals court has denied former Phoenix-area Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s bid to erase his criminal conviction for disobeying a 2011 court order, saying President Donald Trump's pardon makes it unnecessary. Arpaio was convicted for disobeying an order barring his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. Arpaio, who was defeated for reelection in 2016 after six terms, had argued the misdemeanor contempt of court conviction should be removed from his record so it can't be raised against him in future court cases. The 87-year-old lawman, who is running for sheriff again this year, called the decision a victory. A 2017 lower court decision also said Trump’s pardon removed his possible punishments and that pardons don’t erase convictions or the facts of cases. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected Arpaio’s request, saying the verdict no longer has any legal consequence because of the pardon. The judges explained Arpaio was pardoned before he could be sentenced and that the final judgment in the case ended up dismissing the contempt charge. Despite the ruling, Arpaio and his attorney portrayed the decision as a victory because the ruling found the guilty verdict has no legal consequences. “They can’t use that conviction against me in a court of law,” Arpaio said. “That’s a win.” Jack Wilenchik, one of Arpaio's attorneys, said the appeals court gave them what they were asking for. “The 9th Circuit expressly found that the guilty finding has no future preclusive effect, which is what Arpaio actually sought,” Wilenchik said. “This has exactly the same effect as an order ‘vacating’ the verdict.” Special prosecutor Christopher Caldwell had previously said there were no legal consequences to the verdict. The U.S. Department of Justice, which had won the conviction, later sided with Arpaio after the pardon was issued and argued the conviction should be expunged. Arpaio was accused of prolonging his immigration patrols for 17 months to boost his 2012 re-election. He has acknowledged continuing the patrols but insisted his disobedience wasn't intentional.