Without making a definite commitment, President Donald Trump strongly suggested during his campaign-style rally in Phoenix Tuesday night that he will pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Trump told the large, enthusiastic crowd that he couldn’t do it at the rally because it would “cause controversy,” but insisted that “Joe can feel good.”
The 85-year-old Arpaio had been targeted by the Obama Justice Department for years and was finally nailed on a trumped-up misdemeanor contempt charge in October of 2016.
“So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked. “I’ll make a prediction — I think he’s going to be just fine, okay?”
The president told Fox News on Aug. 13 that a pardon could come right away. “I might do it right away, maybe early this week,” he said. “I am seriously thinking about it.”
But the Trump White House on Tuesday signaled that the president would not be making an announcement regarding Arpaio’s fate at his rally in Phoenix. The president’s advisers likely discouraged him from making such an announcement during a political rally, but it appears clear that a pardon is in the works.
Via Fox News:
Earlier Tuesday, Arpaio told Fox News he wasn’t sure if he’d even be at the rally.
“I haven’t officially been invited—I’ve been to every single one in the last two years, but I don’t anticipate going down there on my own,” Arpaio told Fox News, adding that he was “not sure” if the president would issue a pardon.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to comment on whether they plan to extend an invitation to the sheriff.
“I would accept [a pardon], but we’ll see what happens,” Arpaio said, while stressing that his support for Trump and his administration is unwavering. “[I]t doesn’t matter because I’m still going to support him as long as he is the president of the United States because that’s the way I am. I don’t desert for political reasons. I’ll stick with him.”
Arpaio added: “I said he’ll go down in history as one of the best presidents we’ve ever had, and I stick with that prediction regardless.”
Arpaio, 85, who served as sheriff in Maricopa County for more than 20 years before losing election in 2016, forged a national reputation for his tough and controversial policies cracking down on illegal immigration. Arpaio’s widely publicized tactics included forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and housing them in desert tent camps.
He was convicted of misdemeanor contempt of court for disregarding an Arizona judge’s order in 2011 to stop his anti-immigrant traffic patrols.
“We’ve been fighting this and appealing this, but no one will really look at our defense,” Arpaio said, claiming that he did not use “racial profiling” but used race as a “criteria.” He complained he wasn’t given a jury trial.
“Of course, if I had a jury, I never would have been convicted,” he said.
There was plenty of love in the room for Arpaio Tuesday night.
“Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked the crowd to a loud affirmative ovation.
“I won’t do it tonight [pardon Arpaio] because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” Trump said, “but Sheriff Joe can feel good.”