Trump defends decision to pardon ex-Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio

In a joint news conference with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland on Monday, President Trump defended his decision to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, which he issued Friday evening in the midst of Tropical Storm Harvey. 

The president was questioned about his Friday-evening pardon of the former Maricopa County sheriff.

“A lot of people think it was the right thing to do,” the president said when asked about the criticisms of his pardon, which have been leveled by both Democrats and Republicans.

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio came shortly after he was advised against the decision by White House lawyers who suggested he wait until after the sheriff was sentenced for contempt.

“He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona,” Mr. Trump said at the press conference. “He’s very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration, he is loved in Arizona.”

Mr. Trump said that far from hiding the pardon by issuing it Friday evening, he thought it would get more attention as television viewership was bound to be high due to Harvey’s impact. “The ratings would be far higher,” he explained. He went on to explain his belief that the Arizona sheriff was treated “unbelievably unfairly,” adding that Arpaio is a “great law enforcement person.”

In light of his pardon of Arpaio, Mr. Trump then began listing other controversial presidential pardons and commutations from Democratic administrations. 

He read off a list of individuals, including:

  • Susan Rosenberg, a Clinton administration commutation
  • Carlos Vignali, a Clinton administration commutation

“I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe, and I think the people of Arizona who really know him best agree with me,” Mr. Trump concluded.

The White House released a statement regarding Arpaio’s pardon that states “Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”

Mr. Trump echoed this sentiment in a tweet he released later that day during Tropical Storm Harvey.

The conference marked the first time Mr. Trump has spoken publicly since Tropical Storm Harvey. He assured “rapid action from Congress” for victims of the storm and recovery efforts.  

“We’ve pledged our full support as Texas and Louisiana recover from this devastating and historic…

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