It was the big question on many minds as President Trump headed to Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday: Would he pardon “America’s toughest sheriff,” Joe Arpaio?
The initial answer was no, according to the White House Tuesday evening.
“There will be no discussion of that today at any point, and no action will be taken on that front at any point today,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, according to the Washington Times.
But during Trump’s actual speech, the president strongly suggested Arpaio would eventually receive a presidential pardon.
“Do the people here like Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked the crowd in Phoenix, which proceeded to chant, “Pardon Joe!”
“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? He should have had a jury,” Trump continued. “But you know what? I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s gonna be just fine. But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”
Sheriff Arpaio, 85, was found guilty of misdemeanor contempt of court on July 31 after he defied a 2011 order to stop enforcing federal immigration law by conducting traffic patrols and detaining illegal-alien lawbreakers. He then delivered the individuals he arrested to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. The July contempt ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton. Arpaio insists he never used “racial profiling” during his patrols.
Arpaio, who served as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for 24 years, captured national attention when he mandated that inmates must wear pink underwear and live in desert tent camps. During his years as sheriff, he fed inmates two meals daily; banned Playboy magazine; broadcast classical music, opera and Frank Sinatra hits; and instituted volunteer chain gangs.
During the 2016 president race, Arpaio said the Hispanic community is full of “good people,” but those who come into the U.S. illegally must be dealt with according to the law.
Arpaio lost his seventh bid for office in November after the left contributed millions of dollars to his opponent, Paul Penzone, who now refuses to keep illegal aliens locked up while federal authorities begin deportation proceedings.
Now Arpaio faces up to six months in jail, and his sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 5. Nonetheless, President Trump did tell Fox News just a week ago that he is “seriously considering” a pardon for Arpaio.
“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” Trump told Fox on Aug. 13. “He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot, and I hate to see what’s happened to him.”
The president reportedly indicated that if he decided to pardon Arpaio, the decision would come in a matter of days. Trump has not issued a pardon since he took office in January.
When he announced his Phoenix campaign, speculation ran wild that the president could pardon Arpaio at the event.
“I might do it right away, maybe early this week,” Trump said more than a week ago. “I am seriously thinking about it.”
Trump said Arpaio has been an “outstanding sheriff” who was admired by Arizona citizens because he was so tough on crime.
“Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe?” President Trump asked. “He has protected people from crime and saved lives. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
Upon hearing that the president was considering a pardon, Arpaio told Fox: “I am happy he understands the case. I would accept the pardon because I am 100 percent not guilty.”
On Tuesday, Arpaio told Fox he’s “not sure” Trump will actually pardon him. In fact, the former sheriff said he’s not even sure he’d attend the Phoenix 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,” he said.
Arpaio, who endorsed Trump for the presidency in January 2016, continued: “I would accept [a pardon], but we’ll see what happens. [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. 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.”