President Donald Trump is seriously considering issuing a pardon for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the immigration hawk whose aggressive detention policies made him a national figure.
The president told Fox News that Arpaio is a “patriot” and expressed disappointment at his ongoing legal woes.
“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” the president told Fox News on Sunday at his club in Bedminster, N.J. “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 added that the pardon could come as soon as this week.
“I might do it right away, maybe early this week,” Trump said. “I am seriously thinking about it.”
Arpaio told Fox he was not aware that the president was considering a pardon in his case.
“I am happy he understands the case,” he told Fox. “I would accept the pardon because I am 100 percent not guilty.”
He further said he had not petitioned the president for clemency.
“I would never ask him for a pardon, especially if it causes heat. I don’t want to do anything that would hurt the president,” Arpaio said.
Arpaio was a fairly prominent surrogate for Trump during the 2016 presidential election. He spoke in support of Trump’s candidacy at rallies across the country and addressed the Republican National Convention.
The sheriff was convicted in July of criminal contempt after his department refused to comply with a court order requiring the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to stop seizing suspecting undocumented aliens. Arpaio lost his bid for a seventh consecutive term as sheriff in 2016.
The ACLU denounced Trump’s consideration Monday, saying such a move would attach a presidential imprimatur to racism.
“President Trump would be literally pardoning Joe Arpaio’s flagrant violation of federal court orders that prohibited the illegal detention of Latinos,” said Cecillia Wang, the group’s deputy legal director. “He would undo a conviction secured by his own career attorneys at the Justice Department.”
“Make no mistake: This would be an official presidential endorsement of racism,” she added.
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 5.
The Constitution grants the president power to pardon “offenses against the United States.”
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