President Donald Trump has pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, just days after being advised not to pursue such action until Arpaio was sentenced for contempt.
In a statement Friday evening, the White House said Arpaio’s “life and career” exemplified “selfless public service.”
“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the statement read.
It added, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
“I feel very privileged for the president to issue this pardon,” Arpaio said. “He’s a big supporter of law enforcement. I know it came from his heart,”
Mr. Trump tweeted Friday night that he had granted Arpaio a “full pardon” because Arpaio “kept America safe!”
Arpaio told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he is “with [Mr. Trump] until the end.” Arpaio said he will hold a news conference next week to “get the message out.” He accused “certain news media” of “trying to destroy me all these years.”
“After all these years, 55 years in law enforcement around the world, here I am on the defense table?” Arpaio said. “Because they wanted to do everything to get rid of me. Certain people I’ll discuss that more next week.”
Arpaio was convicted in July for contempt. A federal court said in 2016 that Arpaio’s policy as sheriff of using traffic stops and workplace raids to find suspected undocumented immigrants constituted racial profiling. He was convicted in July for ignoring the order to end traffic patrols targeting immigrants.
The Department of Justice said late Friday that Mr. Trump “exercised his lawful authority” and the department respected his decision.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona issued a statement saying that while Mr. Trump has the ability to issue a pardon, “doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”
“No one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold,” McCain’s statement said. “Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders.”