Dems slam Trump for pardoning Arpaio during hurricane

Democrats lashed out at President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE on Friday evening over his decision to pardon Joe Arpaio, the controversial former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., as a huge storm barreled toward Texas.

Trump faced intense criticism for issuing the pardon hours before Hurricane Harvey was set to hit the Gulf Coast, potentially causing devastating damage as it brought massive wind and rain.

"Donald Trump just gave a free pass to his buddy Joe Arpaio, the nation’s most notorious agent of racism and bigotry, during a natural disaster that could hurt millions. That's not presidential, that's a coward,” Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement.

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“Sheriff Arpaio used racial profiling to tear apart immigrant families and devastate Latino communities. At the same time, he failed to investigate hundreds of crimes, including dozens of reported child molestations," he added.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump to lift Sudan terror sponsor designation Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts The 2016 and 2020 Senate votes are about the same thing: constitutionalist judges MORE (D-N.Y.) charged that Trump was "using the cover of the storm" to issue the pardon of Arpaio, a controversial sheriff convicted of criminal contempt after violating a court order and racially profiling Latinos.

"As millions of people in TX and LA are prepping for the hurricane, the President is using the cover of the storm to pardon a man who violated a court's order to stop discriminating against Latinos and ban courageous transgender men and women from serving our nation's Armed Forces. Then he ran to Camp David,” Schumer wrote in a series of tweets.

"The only reason to do these right now is to use the cover of Hurricane Harvey to avoid scrutiny. So sad, so weak," he added. 

Speculation had intensified this week that Trump would move to pardon Arpaio, who was an early backer of his presidential campaign.

Trump hinted at a campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday that he would pardon the former sheriff, though not at the rally. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this week that he would make a decision at "the appropriate time."

The White House announced the pardon on Friday evening as most media turned to cover Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm expected to bring large amounts of rain and wind to Texas and Louisiana.