Trump pardons former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio – Washington Post

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President Trump pardoned former Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff Joe Arpaio Aug. 25. Here’s what you need to know. (Patrick Martin/The Washington Post)

President Trump on Friday pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio — a move that keeps one of his staunchest political allies out of jail and will likely cheer his conservative base, which supports both men’s hard-line views on illegal immigration.

The unusual pardon — coming less than a month after Arpaio was convicted, and before his planned October sentencing — will further anger the president’s critics and is likely to worsen the president’s already tense relationship with the judicial branch, which he has repeatedly criticized.

A pardon is perhaps the only way to make Arpaio — a longtime county sheriff who gained national fame and notoriety for his aggressive pursuit of undocumented immigrants — a more polarizing figure than he already is.

The decision on Arpaio is the latest chapter in a line of historically controversial pardons granted by presidents — rare but not unprecedented uses of power that draw fire for being politically or personally motivated. ­Legal experts have compared an Arpaio pardon to the one President George H.W. Bush granted to former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger in 1992 over the Iran-contra affair, or the one President Clinton granted to fugitive financier Marc Rich in 2001.

In this Dec. 18, 2013, photo, then-Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks at a news conference in Phoenix. President Trump has pardoned the former sheriff following his conviction for criminal contempt of court for intentionally disobeying a judge’s order in an immigration case. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

But Arpaio’s pardon — the first of the Trump presidency — is a rarity among rarities. In recent decades, presidents have tended to issue controversial pardons at the end of their terms, not the beginning. The move raises questions about how often the president might pardon other political figures — and for what types of offenses.

In a statement announcing the pardon, Trump made no mention of Arpaio’s offense — criminal contempt of court — but praised his past military service.

“Arpaio’s life and career, which began at the age of 18 when he enlisted in the military after the outbreak of the Korean War, exemplify selfless public service,” Trump said. “Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.

“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,” the statement continued.

Arpaio’s lawyer, Jack Wilenchik, said simply: “Justice has been done.’’

In a tweet, Arpaio thanked the president “for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!’’

Arpaio told the Associated Press that he appreciates the president’s action and will always stand by him. He said he will speak more about the matter next week.

Joe Arpaio’s illegal-immigration crackdown made him a polarizing figure and an early ally of President Trump. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

The sheriff’s critics spent years trying to stop the police practices that Arpaio sanctioned and that they charge were discriminatory and abusive; in recent weeks, they had vociferously objected to the pardon that Trump repeatedly hinted was coming.

A deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union called the pardon “a presidential endorsement of racism.’’

“Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing,’’ said Cecillia Wang, the ACLU official. “Once again, the president has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of color and have been struck down by the courts.’’

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