Presidential pardon of controversial Arizona lawman, convicted for defying judges order to stop racially profiling Latinos, decried as endorsing racism
Donald Trump has pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio, the hardline Arizona lawman who was convicted of contempt of court in July for defying a judges order to stop racially profiling Latinos.
Trump had signaled his intention to grant the pardon at a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday evening, when he suggested Arpaio was convicted for doing his job.
Arpaios life and career exemplify selfless public service, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Saunders said in a statement Friday night, adding: After more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.
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! Trump later wrote on Twitter, as a major hurricane made landfall in Texas and after signing a controversial directive on transgender people in the military.
In an interview with the Arizona Republic moments after his pardon was publicly announced, Arpaio hinted at a return to politics.
I told my wife that I was through with politics, he told the paper. But now Ive decided Im not through with politics because of whats happening. I didnt ask for a pardon. It has nothing to do with a pardon. Ive been saying this for the last couple of months. Ive got a lot to offer.
Over Arpaios 24-year tenure as sheriff of Maricopa county, he gained notoriety for detaining hundreds of undocumented immigrants in a Tent City jail and forcing them to wear pink underwear. The sheriff courted controversy and media attention calling his own jail a concentration camp, serving inmates just two meals a day and selling replica pink underwear to the public as he became a national figurehead for the virulent xenophobia that Trump embraced in his presidential campaign.
In November, amid a surge in Latino voters, the then 84-year-old lost his bid to win a seventh term.
In an interview with Fox News Sean Hannity on Friday evening, the former sheriff joked that he would have fared better in federal prison than in the jails he once operated: Its federal; I could play bocce and [have] three meals a day.
Arpaio also said he would hold a news conference next week to discuss the abuse of politics in the judicial process, and blamed the news media for trying to destroy me all these years.
While many local law enforcement agencies leave immigration matters to the federal agency charged with enforcing them, the Maricopa sheriffs department aggressively pursued the arrest of undocumented immigrants under Arpaio.
His criminal conviction stems from his 2011 refusal to comply with a judges order to halt the practice of engaging in traffic stops that targeted Latino drivers. Arpaio continued the traffic patrols for nearly a year and a half after the court order. Federal prosecutors charged him with misdemeanor contempt of court in 2016, arguing that his defiance of the order was politically motivated.
Arpaio had been scheduled to be sentenced in October and could have faced up to six months in jail.
Trump said on Tuesday that he was waiting to issue the pardon because he did not want to cause any controversy.