As Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke's national profile has risen, a local congresswoman has increasingly pressed him over the biggest controversy facing him: a string of deaths at the county jail his office is tasked with overseeing.
"I'm alarmed," Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin told Business Insider in a recent phone interview. "Particularly when I continue to hear from staffers from President-elect Trump that they're still looking for a place to put Sheriff Clarke [in the administration] in an area of security. And this is very, very concerning."
Over the course of the last year, four inmates have died at the jail overseen by Clarke, who has come under fire from locals who allege he has neglected his job while chasing stardom with his hard-nosed punditry. One man died of dehydration; another was a newborn baby delivered by an inmate.
A major surrogate for President-elect Donald Trump, Clarke was mostly quiet regarding the jail deaths until recently, when Moore announced the Justice Department, with weeks to go until Trump's inauguration, told her they're considering an investigation
"Who is responsible for that?" Moore asked. "How did that happen? These are my constituents, and this effects them. This is a basic delivery of service. And I want to know why that baby died, and I'm not going to be distracted by his antics and his rants and everything else."
Clarke, for his part, has dismissed criticism of his operation of the Milwaukee County Jail as "political attacks." In a Facebook post, he said Moore was "ghost-chasing" because he played a "key role" in getting Trump elected. Moreover, Clarke told the Wisconsin Watchdog that jail populations include individuals who have made poor health choices that can contribute to their deaths.
"Two inmates suffered from severed cardiac disease, which became critical when coupled with the effects of hardcore drug usage prior to their incarceration, with their extensive drug histories independently noted in their death investigations," he said, additionally noting that the jail has a private contract with a healthcare provider and that they should answer questions about any "shortcoming."
Moore was "appalled" by his responses to the jail deaths.
"He could've easily said 'we're going to investigate this, we're going to figure out what happened,'" she said. "You know, he could've picked up the phone and called the families and reassured them. He did none of that."
The Democratic congresswoman from Milwaukee tweeted last week that Clarke would have more time to deal with issues at home if he wasn't seeking "an internship" with Trump. She said he's been "more concerned with his brand" than his job.
"I just would must rather he administered the jails in a safe way, that he provided people with basic dignity and healthcare," she continued. "I'm tired of clown acts. You know, the phrases: 'Black Lies Matter.' You know, why not embrace 'Black Lives Matter' starting with that baby in the jail."
She called the response from the Justice Department to her November letter regarding the deaths at the jail a "camel's nose under the tent" that she believes is needed to get answers on what exactly went on.
"I'll be able to wave this letter around in the next administration," she continued, referring to the letter she wrote the Justice Department. "Hopefully, [Sen.] Jeff Sessions will not be the [Attorney General,] but even if he is, I was just sworn in to the 115th Congress on January 3rd. I'm going to be here. So my letter and my voice will still be here."
Through his spokeswoman, Clarke declined to provide comment.
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