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Trump Admits He Dropped Arpaio Pardon Friday Night Because Of Hurricane Harvey Coverage

Yesterday during a press conference with the President of Finland, President Trump said he issued the pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio when he did because he knew that the coverage of Hurricane Harvey bearing down on Houston would mean more people would be watching the news:

WASHINGTON — President Trump offered a fiery defense on Monday of his decision to pardon Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff, as Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas last week — and claimed he timed it to attract maximum attention as television viewers were glued to storm coverage.

Mr. Trump, who said his action was no worse than late-term pardons issued under the last two Democratic presidents, also suggested that the Justice Department had political motives during the Obama administration for charging the former Maricopa County sheriff in a case concerning his illegal profiling of Hispanics. Mr. Arpaio was convicted last month of criminal contempt for his tactics in hunting down and jailing immigrants in the country illegally, but he was pardoned before his sentencing.

“I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly,” Mr. Trump said during a joint news conference with President Sauli Niinisto of Finland in the East Room of the White House. The president and Mr. Arpaio share a hard line on illegal immigration and unapologetic support of the police, and the former sheriff was an ardent backer of Mr. Trump’s campaign last year.

“A lot of people think it was the right thing to do,” Mr. Trump said on Monday of the pardon. “Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they were normally.”

He rattled off a prepared list of people who were pardoned by previous presidents, homing in on Bill Clinton’s pardoning of the Democratic donor Marc Rich and Barack Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence, which cut short a 35-year term she received for leaking secret government documents while serving as a low-level Army intelligence analyst. Ms. Manning ultimately served seven years of her sentence before she was released in May.

“I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump has been criticized for bypassing the typical Justice Department review process before granting the pardon to Mr. Arpaio. Months ago, the president asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, if Mr. Arpaio’s case could be dropped. He was told that it could not be, but that Mr. Trump was well within his presidential authority to pardon Mr. Arpaio.

Mr. Arpaio, 85, served for 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County. He built a national reputation for harsh conditions in his county jail, and for cracking down against undocumented immigrants. He lost a re-election bid for a seventh term last year, promptly blaming the Obama administration for the criminal contempt charges that were filed against him on Oct. 26 for persisting with profiling Latinos.

“He would have won the election, but they just hammered him just before the election,” Mr. Trump said. “I thought this was a very, very unfair thing to do.”

Given Trump’s past, it isn’t surprising that he would look to get maximum exposure for the things that he did. After all, this was pretty much the entire point of his campaign for President. The fact that he’d admit it, though, is somewhat shocking and yet another example of the man’s lack of scruples of any kind. Not that any of us should be surprised by that, of course.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Petry says:

    This is the striking thing to me…. β€œHe would have won the election, but they just hammered him just before the election,” Mr. Trump said. β€œI thought this was a very, very unfair thing to do.”

    I wonder what else happened a mere week from the election…

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-comey-letter-probably-cost-clinton-the-election/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. M. Bouffant says:

    At least we don’t have that awful Hillary Clinton woman as President, w/ her competence, sanity & stability.

    Really dodged a bullet, didn’t we?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. Hal_10000 says:

    also suggested that the Justice Department had political motives during the Obama administration for charging the former Maricopa County sheriff in a case concerning his illegal profiling of Hispanics … I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly

    This was a very conservative Bush appointed judge. The prosecution was by lifer attorneys at the DOJ. The decision was upheld by a Nixon appointee. At trial, the judge was ridiculously fair to Arpaio even though Arpaio tried to delete e-mails that were filled with racist garbage, repeatedly insulted the judge and hired a PI to investigate the judge’s wife. You can read the details here. Calling this “politicized” is obscene.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  4. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    This is a whole convoluted……thing.
    It seems to me like a reporter was asking about the WH dumping the news on a Friday afternoon, and Trump then ad-libed his response about ratings more as an excuse than anything else. I believe they meant to dump it on a Friday, as is customary. Trump then said something kinda dumb, as he is wont to do, and everyone has been trying to divine meaning from it ever since.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    ‘What a crowd, what a turnout,’ Trump says while visiting Texas amid Hurricane Harvey

    Racist, pervert, totally self-consumed, REPUBLICAN President Pork Chop Pud thinks this humann disaster is all about him!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. SenyorDave says:

    If this was Obama I would bet my bottom dollar the Republicans would have been talking impeachment. Don’t care about the arguments against is, they spent eight years looking for something to impeach him over, this would have suited them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. the Q says:

    SenyorDave, you see the difference to wingnuts is this – they believe in white privilege. Obama, President Blackenstein, almost destroyed America. Trump is going to make (white) AMERICA great again.

    So, no double standard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0