Trump indicated he would pardon Arpaio at a rally in Phoenix
Former sheriff says he is glad to have case behind him
President Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio on Friday, sparing the controversial former Arizona sheriff a jail sentence after he was convicted of criminal contempt related to his hard-line tactics going after undocumented immigrants.
The move drew outcry from civil rights groups, which accuse Arpaio of violating the Constitution in his crackdown on illegal immigration.
During last year’s presidential campaign, Arpaio was a vocal proponent of Trump’s candidacy, and used his national notoriety to advocate for Trump’s similarly aggressive stance on border security and deportations.
In a brief statement released late Friday evening, the White House praised Arpaio’s career.
“Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the statement read. “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is (a) worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
Arpaio thanked Trump on Twitter.
“Thank you @realdonaldtrump for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!,” he posted.
Arpaio continued: “I am humbled and incredibly grateful to President Trump. I look fwd to putting this chapter behind me and helping to #MAGA”
He said in a Fox News interview Friday that he would hold a news conference early next week to discuss the pardon.
Trump did not consult Justice Department
The pardon is the first of Trump’s presidency, though he did not follow his predecessors’ practice of consulting with lawyers at the Justice Department before announcing his decision.
“This is the President’s pardon,” a source with knowledge of the decision said.
Under the Constitution, Trump is permitted wide leeway in issuing pardons. There are no requirements for consultation within the administration before a decision is announced.
“The President exercised his lawful authority and we respect his decision,” said Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman.
Trump hinted at his decision earlier this week during a raucous campaign rally in Phoenix.
“So was Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job?” Trump queried his supporters. “I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK.”
Trump tweeted Friday night about his decision: “I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!”
Groups criticize decision
Arpaio, who was sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, until last year, was found guilty of criminal contempt last month for disregarding a court order in a racial-profiling case. His sentencing had been scheduled for October 5.
“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” US District Judge Susan Bolton wrote in a July 31 order finding him guilty.