Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos
One of the clearest priorities for public officials that has emerged from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is the dire need to root far-right extremists out of the ranks of the nation's law enforcement agencies—underscored by an FBI intelligence report warning that white supremacists are targeting such agencies for infiltration. More than anything, effectively confronting far-right terrorism and violence will require ensuring that law enforcement is not subverted by officers who sympathize with their frequently unhinged ideologies.
But in Boise, Idaho, local county commissioners considered appointing as sheriff a man named Steve Traubel, who is an ardent supporter of the far-right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), an organization that preaches that sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, accountable to no one. During his job interview this week as one of three finalists for the sheriff's position, Traubel repeated the antisemitic theory that Jews "led the Bolshevik Revolution" and are to blame for creating the Soviet Union, as well as for the subsequent violence.
However, although Traubel had significant backing from GOP officials, the county commission on Friday chose someone else.
Traubel, a onetime Sheriff's Office investigator who worked in the Ada County Prosecutor's Office until 2019, and the other two candidates—Matt Clifford, a lieutenant in the Sheriff's Office, and Mike Chilton, a Marine Corps veteran and onetime Sheriff's Office employee—were interviewed Wednesday by the Ada County Commission. The three finalists were chosen by the Ada County Republican Central Committee to replace former Sheriff Steve Bartlett, who resigned suddenly in May, less than a year after winning reelection.
On Friday, the commission announced that it had chosen Clifford for the job.
While Chilton has been evasive about his background—having refused to supply the commission with requested information on his employment and personal history—Traubel's background as a far-right extremist is well-established, and he was largely unapologetic about it in his interview. According to Boise State Public Radio, Traubel received more votes from GOP central-committee members than any other potential nominee, and county commissioners received several letters supporting Traubel from those party leaders.
Traubel openly embraces the CSPOA, which embraces him in return. On his website, Traubel features an endorsement from CSPOA founder Richard Mack:
However, Doug Traubel has more than just law enforcement experience; he has freedom experience. He knows and understands the principles of liberty upon which America was founded. He knows that Liberty is the ultimate responsibility of every sheriff in this country. The people of Ada County will be able to trust him to run the sheriff's office in a manner that will guarantee safety and protect freedom. They must go together and with Doug, they will.
Traubel is also the author of a self-published book titled Red Badge: A veteran peace officer's commentary on the Marxist subversion of American Law Enforcement & Culture, available on Amazon. According to its description, Traubel "pulls no punches as he delivers hard-hitting evidence that reveals how Marxists have repackaged themselves and are subverting the rule of law with social justice and an administrative state, superimposed over the constitution."
It adds: "Controlling local police is essential to the success of the revolution. To do this the Marxist hammer of political correctness is reshaping a peace officer's oath over the anvil of ignorance and fear. Five decades of federal indoctrination, intimidation and seduction have turned local police leadership into tools for Marxist social engineering."
Traubel also wrote a screed for the far-right Gem State Patriot website claiming that former President Obama is "a laughable stooge of the tried-and-failed Marxist ideology" and claiming:
It is 2016! There is no longer black oppression in the United States. Police are good. Criminals are bad. It is not white versus black. It is police versus criminal. It is good versus evil. It is principles versus relativism. It is truth versus deception.
When Ada commissioners began grilling Traubel over these and other remarks on Wednesday, he unleashed a deluge of far-right conspiracist nonsense, much of it anti-semitic and racist in nature, including his insistence that Jews were responsible for the Communist regime in Russia—noting that while Jews were victims in Nazi Germany, "they were the villain class in the Soviet Union" because they "led the Bolshevik revolution."
Traubel's claim not only is false, it was a common propaganda trope known as "Judeo-Bolshevism" promoted by the German Nazi regime in the years leading up to and including the Holocaust, claiming that Communism was a Jewish plot to undermine Germany. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: "The existence of a communist state so close to Germany was not merely a political threat, but also an existential racial and ideological threat. For Nazis, both Jews and communists were made worse by their supposed identification with one another."
Traubel, however, insisted Wednesday that the claim was real: "What we don't often hear … is how many hundreds of thousands of people were killed (in the Soviet Union) and what group actually started that," he said.
If the commission were to select Traubel, he would not be the first CSPOA-affiliated sheriff to lay claim to jurisdiction in a large urban area. That distinction belongs to former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke of Wisconsin, the pro-Trump advocate who at one time was a Fox News regular.
As was the case with Clarke—who, after his tenure has ended, advocated for right-wing "patriots" to take to the streets in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions—having such a sheriff would play law enforcement in the hands of the same movement (that is, the "Patriot" movement, in which the CSPOA is an active and powerful presence) primarily responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection.
When CSPOA sheriffs have taken office, the results are often disastrous. Just ask the residents of Grant County, Oregon, where one such sheriff has taken to ruling the county like his personal fiefdom.
Traubel openly embraced the CSPOA belief in the supremacy of the sheriff during the interview. He told commissioners that if, in his view, a "social justice mentality is pulling the reins on the police" in Boise during a protest, "if I get wind of that, I'm going in." He indicated he believed the Boise Police officers would then be "under my command."
"It kind of sounds like you'd be willing to take up arms against the Boise police," commissioner Rod Beck commented.
Other commissioners questioned comments and claims that Traubel has made on social media, including his racist (and false) assertions that Black men are responsible for "at least 50%" of all rapes—which he asserted he read in a book that was "factual and well-sourced," but could not name—and other bigoted remarks, including the assertion that "Islam is the culture of death."
But Traubel's bigotry is part of the CSPOA package, which itself is founded on far-right conspiracy theories whose origins were profoundly racist and anti-Semitic. As the Southern Poverty Law Center explained in a 2016 report on the organization's spread, particularly in rural counties where such "constitutionalist" beliefs are often popular:
[T]he real root of the "county supremacy" movement that has been explicitly embraced by the CSPOA is the Posse Comitatus, a racist and anti-Semitic group of the 1970s and 1980s that also defined the county sheriff as the highest "legitimate" law enforcement authority in the country. The Posse, whose Latin name translates as "power of the county," said government officials who "disobey" the Constitution should be taken to a downtown intersection and "hung there by the neck."
Richard Mack (while insisting that the United States is "not a democracy" but "a constitutional republic") claims that sheriffs and police officers—by virtue of having taken an oath to uphold the Constitution—were the true arbiters of what the law permits, and may choose not to uphold laws they deem outside it, regardless of any court rulings, even at the highest federal levels:
Why do you think that I have an obligation to go along with any unconstitutional act or anything that violates liberty? It's not my definition. It's right there, it's plain and easy. I know what "shall not be infringed" means. I know what that means. Because my legislature bestows no obligation on me to go along. Just the opposite. I swore to uphold and defend the Constitution, and you, like everybody else, think I don't have to. That's the problem. We don't follow the Constitution anymore. Let's try that for a year. But it's your definition. It's not my definition.
… Why is the sheriff so powerful? Look at your history of the sheriff. Also, look, he is the only elected law enforcement officer anywhere in the country. He's the only one. He gets his power directly from the people. He reports only to them. They're his only boss. He has no other boss except the people. And he promised them that he would uphold and defend their constitutional rights. And so you're saying, no, he doesn't have to. If the legislature tells him not to, if they pass a law. You think all laws are good if they pass?
In his county … the governor's not his boss. He doesn't report to the governor. He doesn't report to the president. When they are wrong, what do we do?
Not one of these arguments has ever been upheld in any court of law in the United States. Moreover, as the Center for Public Integrity explored in depth in a 2014 study of the CSPOA, the organization's worldview is dangerously aligned with views held by domestic terrorists and violent white supremacists:
What's unique about his group is not that it opposes gun controls but that its ambition is to encourage law enforcement officers to defy laws they decide themselves are illegal. On occasion, some of his group's sheriffs have found themselves in curious agreement with members of the sovereign citizens' movement, which was also founded on claimed rights of legal defiance and is said by the FBI to pose one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats.
Indeed, the sovereign citizens movement that preaches the same beliefs vis-a-vis the role of government has, over the past 20 years, also posed the most lethal threat to law enforcement officers in the country. The FBI in 2010 designated the movement a significant source of domestic terrorism.
"It's terrifying to me," Justin Nix, a University of Louisville criminology professor who specializes in police fairness and legitimacy, told The Washington Post. "It's not up to the police to decide what the law is going to be. They're sworn to uphold the law. It's not up to them to pick and choose."