David Clarke Heads To Pro-Trump SuperPAC After Kelly Blocks White House Job

Former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke loses out on yet another Trump Administration position thanks to Chief of Staff John Kelly.


Last week, it was reported that now-former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who became a conservative hero akin to former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, had resigned his office abruptly and that he would be taking a position with the Trump Administration. Now, it turns out that Clarke is headed for a position at a pro-Trump SuperPAC instead, and he appears to have White House Chief of Staff to thank for losing yet another Washington job opportunity:

Former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke Jr. announced Tuesday he will join the super PAC devoted to electing candidates who support the Trump-Pence administration.

Both the super PAC, America First Action, and a spokesperson for Clarke announced that he would join the team as a senior advisor and spokesman.

“It’s truly an honor to join the America First Action team, most importantly because we share the same values that most hard-working, law-abiding Americans do,” Clarke, who resigned last week from his post as sheriff, said in a statement Tuesday. “It gives me the chance to do what I love most—promote President Trump’s agenda, including his fierce support for the American law enforcement officer, and ensure the will of the American people who got President Trump elected is not derailed by the left or the self-serving Washington establishment.”

In June, Clarke announced that he had rescinded his acceptance of a post in the Office of Public Engagement for the Department of Homeland Security. However, the office had never confirmed that it offered him the job, in which he would have served as a liaison between DHS and state and local law enforcement.

Since his resignation last week, Clarke, who has been a loyal Trump supporter, had been rumored to take a post within the administration.

On Friday, DHS pointed Fox News to its announcement in June that “Sheriff Clarke is no longer being considered for a position within DHS.”

“His status with DHS has not changed,” a DHS official told Fox News. Also Friday, the White House told Fox News that it had “no announcement” in regards to a potential administration post for Clarke.

The Daily Beast, meanwhile, reports that Clarke was blocked from taking a position inside the White House by Chief of Staff John Kelly and that it was Kelly who was apparently also behind blocking Clarke from taking a position at the Department of Homeland Security while he was still Secretary of that department:

Sheriff David A. Clarke just lost out on yet another Trump administration job—and he has the president’s chief of staff to thank.

Officials in the West Wing tell The Daily Beast that Clarke had been in consideration for a White House post over the past seven weeks. But on Tuesday, the controversial former Milwaukee County lawman signed on with an outside group instead. He will serve as a spokesman and “senior adviser” for the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.

Officials in the West Wing tell The Daily Beast that Clarke had been in consideration for a White House post over the past seven weeks. But on Tuesday, the controversial former Milwaukee County lawman signed on with an outside group instead. He will serve as a spokesman and “senior adviser” for the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.

Four sources working in and close to the Trump White House said his failure to land a gig in the West Wing or at the Department of Homeland Security, where Clarke unsuccessfully sought a job earlier this year, was in large part the result of opposition from White House chief of staff John Kelly. Kelly led DHS until late July.

Though Clarke had been discussed for a possible White House communications or outreach role, Kelly’s position as chief of staff made the arrangement a “non-starter,” as one senior White House official put it. Earlier this year, while serving as DHS Secretary, Kelly had informed Clarke that an appointment to that department would not happen in part due to scandal surrounding the treatment of inmates in Clarke’s jail, and the ensuing negative media attention. According to two sources familiar with the discussions, this led to Clarke formally “rescinding” his intention to join the Trump administration in mid-June.

This wasn’t the first personnel move inside the White House that apparently has Kelly’s fingerprints on it. In the month that he’s been in his position, we’ve seen officials such as Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon, and Sebastian Gorka leave their positions abruptly in moves that clearly seemed to be part of Kelly’s efforts to bring order of some kind to a disordered White House and control who has access to the President and what kind of information is put in front of him to aid in decision making. This report from The Daily Beast also helps explain what happened earlier this year when it was reported that Clarke would be taking a position with the Department of Homeland Security, but that offer was quickly rescinded in the wake of reports that Clarke had plagiarized his master’s thesis. At the time, Kelly was still serving as Secretary of Homeland Security and was reportedly aware of the numerous reports regarding Clarke and the way that he performed his duties. The most notable of these is the case of Terrill Thomas, who died of dehydration while being held in Clarke’s jail after being held in solitary confinement for eight days without running water. Additionally, a woman who gave birth while in custody at Clarke’s jail is suing Clarke and the county after it was revealed that she was kept shackled while giving birth, a practice forbidden by both the Wisconsin Bureau of Collections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Clarke is also the subject of a harassment lawsuit arising from an incident at Milwaukee’s airport where a fellow passenger alleges that he was detained and harassed by deputies after he asked Clarke about his favorite football team. After the incident, the man involved alleges that Clarke taunted him via his official Facebook feed. Finally, Clarke has resisted efforts by Milwaukee County officials to audit his department. Given all of this, it’s no surprise that Kelly would want to keep Clarke away from the White House.

This new position, of course, likely means that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Clarke in the media as a pro-Trump surrogate, but that’s a lot better than such as a person working in the White House and having potential influence over official government policy. As I noted last week, it’s unclear how long General Kelly is going to last in his current position, but it’s good to see him making moves like this. At least we know there’s one high-ranking sane and level-headed person in the White House who isn’t an irrational ideologue with a questionable ethical record. Whether he can keep that position while seemingly rebuffing Trump’s efforts to appeal to his base, however, is an open question.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    This fvcker should be in jail…not commanding a big salary in politics. And if the Trumpies meant what they say about law and order, then he would be. Unfortunately when they say law and order they really mean facism.

  2. Argon says:

    That’s hardly a fall for the Sheriff. There’s much more barely-regulated money to be made in PAC-land than in government. Given that he was sh*tty at his old job and likes to cross legal lines, it’s probably the safest position as well. You can grift for years in PACs with no accountability for poor performance.

  3. SenyorDave says:

    I just read the link to the case of Terrill Thomas. UNBELIEVABLE! Clarke should be arrested and awaiting trial on some sort of murder or manslaughter charge. Instead he was going to be in an administration job if not for Kelly. Trump really seems to associate with some of the most repulsive characters. I guess I birds of a feather…

  4. Lit3Bolt says:

    At least he can start making money by selling Sheriff Clarke Super-Cop Action Warrior badges, pins, and medals for eager Trumpkins.

    He looks so cute in that 4 star cosplay outfit. I wonder if his Mom helped him?

  5. CSK says:

    Does Kelly have something on Trump? Something truly appalling that would horrify even those who already find Mangolini repulsive? I’m asking seriously. Kelly seems to be able to overrule even Javanka.

  6. Facebones says:

    @Argon: I’d much rather this jackbooted thug be preening on TV as the token Black Guy Who Supports Trump and sending out fundraising emails to the marks party faithful than be in any actual position of authority. If he steals money from the rubes who donate to Trump, fine with me. It’s way better than him being in charge of a state apparatus that can harass and imprison people without just cause.

  7. Liberal Capitalist says:

    You know…

    He’s got that “Trashcan Man” fanatic look to him ala Stephen King’s The Stand.

    “my life for you, mylifeforyoumylifeforyou…”

    Got to follow the wishes of the Walkin’ Man.

  8. Pete S says:

    In the long run this frightens me. Eventually, sooner or later, Trump and Kelly are going to grow tired of each other and in that situation it is not the boss who leaves. When that day comes, will Trump have such a pent-up desire to hire crazy idiots that he winds up with an even worse staff than he put together in January?

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    Ah, Trashy. I based a character on Trashcan Man because I’d never written a completely irredeemable violent psychopath. (I normally prefer nuanced evil.) And in a nice touch Stephen King gave my guy a shout-out in Entertainment Weekly.

  10. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I read someone (perhaps Lawrence Peter) asserting that in school administration, anyone with the word “assistant” or “deputy” in their job title didn’t actually have a job. I would assert that in government and PACs the same is true of the title “Senior Advisor.” Since this posting simply diverts money that would be used to elect truly dangerous people to office away to Welfare for Wingnuts, I congratulate Sheriff Clarke on his promotion and wish him an long and happy tenure as House Oreo for whatever scam this is.

  11. Not the IT Dept. says:

    He gets a salary for bootlicking Trump in public. Period. PACs are fundraising machines pure and simple and nothing in Clarke’s resume indicates he can contribute anything to that work. He’s on the shelf, out of the way, and in no danger of getting a government job.

    Would be great if we ever got a transcript of the Kelly/Clarke “job interviews”!

  12. Kylopod says:


    the token Black Guy Who Supports Trump

    He’s not the only one. There is also the “Blacks for Trump” guy who’s always appearing in those group shots at Trump rallies:

    In the early 1990s, Symonette, who then went by the name of Maurice Woodside, was arrested along with other members of an African-American cult called the Temple of Love, the New Times reported. Its leader, Yahweh ben Yahweh (formerly known as Hulon Mitchell Jr.), was later sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit murder. Symonette was acquitted. … Symonette’s views have changed over the years. Long after Yahweh ben Yahweh went to prison, his former follower started participating in political protests against Barack Obama. In 2008, Symonette reportedly claimed that then-Sen. Obama had tried to have him assassinated.

    Then there is Malik Obama, Barack’s half-brother in Kenya, who bizarrely endorsed Donald Trump (whom he described as a “humble and honest guy”), who was personally invited to one of the debates by Trump, and who is apparently, um, a Hamas sympathizer.

    And, of course, there is Mike Tyson.

    You couldn’t get a more exemplary bunch to prove Trump’s nonracism.

  13. dazedandconfused says:

    Looks like I was wrong about FOX News hiring him. In retrospect I should have anticipated FOX would first seek to get someone else to pay him to come on their shows, and the Trumps could easily feel obligated to pay him if only to prevent him turning on them. It certainly appears he was promised a job at some point.