President Trump told Fox News he’s “seriously considering” issuing a presidential pardon for former Maricopa, Arizona, County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and said it could come in the next few days.
“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,” Mr. Trump told the network in an interview Sunday from his New Jersey golf club, where he’s taking a working vacation.
Mr. Arpaio was convicted in federal court earlier this year of contempt of court after a judge ruled he willfully defied another judge’s orders to cancel his policy of traffic stops aimed at sniffing out illegal immigrants in his county.
The former sheriff, who lost his re-election bid in November, is due to be sentenced in October.
Mr. Trump told Fox that he admired Mr. Arpaio’s willingness to crack down on illegal immigration.
“He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way,” the president said.
Mr. Arpaio billed himself as America’s toughest sheriff and touted his tent city jails, forced inmates to wear pink underwear, and made tackling illegal immigration a major part of his department’s efforts.
He faced repeated civil-rights complaints for immigration crackdowns, and was ordered to halt traffic stops that critics said amounted to illegal racial profiling and unconstitutional searches. A judge ruled that he failed to comply with that order, resulting in the misdemeanor contempt conviction.
Mr. Arpaio told the network he “would accept the pardon because I am 100 percent not guilty.”
Mr. Arpaio was an early backer of Mr. Trump’s campaign.
Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said Mr. Trump would be sending dangerous messages if he were to use his pardon power for Mr. Arpaio.
“President Trump would be literally pardoning Joe Arpaio’s flagrant violation of federal court orders that prohibited the illegal detention of Latinos. He would undo a conviction secured by his own career attorneys at the Justice Department,” she said. “Make no mistake: This would be an official presidential endorsement of racism.”