David A. Clarke Jr. resigns as Milwaukee County sheriff

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Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke offered his support for police officers around the country during a speech on the opening day of the Republican National Convention on July 18. (The Washington Post)

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., a vocal supporter of President Trump who came under scrutiny for the conditions in his jail, resigned Thursday.

Clarke’s resignation will take effect at midnight, Milwaukee County Clerk George L. Christenson told The Washington Post.

It’s unclear why Clarke resigned. A longtime adviser to the sheriff, Craig Peterson, told The Post that Clarke is unlikely to make any public comments until next week, after Labor Day.

Asked if Clarke, a lifelong Milwaukee resident who served as sheriff since 2002, is considering a potential move out of the Milwaukee area, Peterson would say only, “Anything’s a potential.”

According to a person close to Clarke, he is likely to join an outside group that supports the president’s agenda. An announcement is likely as early as next week. A second person familiar with the matter said that Clarke was not expected to join the Trump administration. Both persons spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Earlier this year, Clarke withdrew his name from consideration for an assistant secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security.

Christenson declined to comment on the contents of Clark’s resignation letter or any rationale the sheriff provided for his decision to leave his post. The resignation came with no advance notice, Christenson said, adding he will next alert Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who will decide on the appointment of a replacement.

A Democrat whose heated rhetoric, sharp views and conservative political base more closely align with the Republican Party, Clarke became a regular commentator on Fox News and used the platform to criticize President Barack Obama and many of his policies.

He became one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters during last year’s election, delivering a much-discussed address at the Republican National Convention. Clarke’s name was mentioned as a potential Homeland Security secretary early in the transition, but insiders worried that a number of scandals and controversial statements could hinder the sheriff’s ability to win Senate confirmation.

Clarke has compared the Black Lives Matter protest movement to the Ku Klux Klan, suggesting it would team with the Islamic State to overthrow the federal government. He labeled anti-Trump demonstrators “anarchists,” and said African Americans sell drugs “because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt.”

At least four people died in the Milwaukee County jail between April 2015 and November 2016, including a newborn baby whose birth occurred unbeknownst to Clarke’s staff. In another case, his staff was accused of withholding water from an inmate, who eventually died, for one week.

While he was under consideration for the Homeland Security job, reports surfaced that Clarke had plagiarized large portions of his master’s thesis. He and called the CNN reporter who broke the story “a sleaze bag.”

Clarke attended the National Fraternal Order of Police annual convention in Nashville on Thursday. His Twitter feed has remained quiet since news of his resignation. The sheriff’s last tweet, published about an hour before the county clerk’s office received his resignation letter, was , “Cop Under Fire.” Trump praised the book on Twitter earlier this month.

Peterson said Clarke wished to let the Milwaukee community know he appreciates the support its shown for him over the last 15 years.

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