US President Donald Trump pardons former sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of racially profiling Latinos
The bond between Trump and Arpaio first formed over their shared false belief that Obama likely wasn’t born in the US and thus was a usurper president
US President Donald Trump issued an executive pardon on Friday to Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Arizona sheriff who was hero to the right and a national nemesis of Latinos, immigration advocates and civil rights groups.
Arpaio, 85, was convicted in July of criminal contempt for violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. He was scheduled to be sentenced October 5 and faced a maximum of six months in jail.
The president has broad power under the Constitution to pardon people convicted of federal crimes. Trump had all but promised to pardon Arpaio in tweets and comments in recent weeks, yet acknowledged the political furore his pardon was likely to ignite.
“I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” Trump told a raucous political rally in Phoenix on August 22. “I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine.”
Friday’s White House statement said: ““Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is [a] worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.
“Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”
There was immediate reaction from some of those who have accused the aging lawman of brutality and racism.
“With his pardon of Arpaio, President Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing,” the American Civil Liberties Union said on Twitter.
Arpaio did not attend the Phoenix rally because he did not get a White House invitation and did not “want to cause any havoc,” he told the Los Angeles Times in an interview a day earlier. He also said he had not spoken with the president since Trump took office.
During his trial, Arpaio was found guilty of ignoring a federal court’s order to cease patrols that racially profiled Latinos and stopped them on suspicion they were in the country illegally.
In November, Arpaio lost his bid for a seventh term after a race in which his hardline record was a top issue.
The bond between Trump and Arpaio first formed over their shared false belief that Barack Obama likely wasn’t born in the US and thus was a usurper president. Obama was born in Hawaii.
After Trump entered the presidential race in July 2015, Arpaio invited him to Phoenix to talk about a crackdown on illegal immigration. He endorsed Trump just before the first votes in the Iowa caucuses last year and became a frequent campaign surrogate.
Trump told Fox News in August that he was “seriously” considering pardoning Arpaio.
“He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot, and I hate to see what has happened to him,” the president said.
As White House aides prepared paperwork for the pardon – reportedly without the usual assistance of Justice Department lawyers – they also drafted talking points for supporters to defend the president’s action.
Those argued that the ageing Arpaio didn’t deserve jail after his decades in the military, federal drug enforcement and as sheriff of Arizona’s populous Maricopa County.
It was Arpaio’s roughly quarter-century as sheriff that gave him a national reputation, or notoriety, for his tough treatment of people suspected of being in the country illegally. Repeated court findings against his office for civil rights violations cost local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
In the early 1990s Arpaio directed construction of a tent city for detainees, open to the burning Arizona sun, both to alleviate overcrowding and to underscore his aggressive enforcement measures.
He made prisoners wear pink underwear and handcuffs, reinstated chain gangs for men, women and juveniles, and cut out lunches.
“It’s time to get tough around here,” he said in 1993.
Arpaio embraced the nickname “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and many Republican candidates sought his endorsement at election time. Over time, however, as the Latino voting population grew in Arizona and other states, the national Republican Party became wary of Arpaio. Trump changed that.
In 2013, Obama’s Justice Department had sued Arpaio’s office, alleging long-running discriminatory policies, in particular the practice of racially profiling Latino drivers. The case was settled in 2015.
In 2016, Arpaio had a speaking role at the Republican National Convention that officially nominated Trump for the presidency.