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.