Timeline: Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s road to a presidential pardon


President Trump on Friday pardoned controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio, ending days of speculation over whether he would pardon the former Maricopa County sheriff.

Trump hinted at a possible pardon during a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, and tweeted Friday that he had pardoned Arpaio, whom he referred to as an “American patriot,” saying, “he kept Arizona safe!”

However, the announcement sparked backlash, with Democrats and some Republicans blasting the decision and civil rights organizations decrying Arpaio’s policing policies as racist.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the decision a “presidential endorsement of racism” while Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) dubbed the action “a slap in the face.”

Here’s a look at Arpaio’s road to receiving a presidential pardon:

1993-2017: Maricopa County sheriff

Arpaio served as the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., for more than 20 years, running on a strict law-and-order platform.

The sheriff called himself “America’s toughest sheriff” and became infamous for his harsh treatment of inmates, including forcing them to live outside in what he called “tent cities,” despite the intense heat.

Roughly 800-900 of the 10,000 people incarcerated in Maricopa County were forced to live in the tent city, according to the Washington Examiner.

NPR reported in 2009 that the former sheriff had “deprived the inmates of basic necessities,” including cutting meals times to once a day. 

2011: Birtherism advocacy

Like Trump, Arpaio long questioned whether former President Barack Obama was born in the U.S.

Arpaio formed a five-man “cold case posse” to investigate the theory starting in 2011, a move that Trump praised.

The White House released a long-form birth certificate in 2011 for Obama, who was born in Honolulu in 1961.

While Trump has since said he believes Obama was born on U.S. soil, Arpaio renewed his claims about Obama’s birth certificate late last year after losing his reelection bid.

Arpaio has claimed that he does not care where Obama is from, but rather he is concerned about his birth certificate, which he has said is a forged government document.

2011: Racial profiling probe

Arpaio’s office was faulted in a 2011 Justice Department probe of racially profiling Latinos.

The sheriff was ordered to stop profiling Latinos for traffic stops and detention in Arizona, however he disobeyed the order, and was found guilty of criminal contempt last month. 

“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said after he was found in criminal contempt in July.

The former sheriff was set to be sentenced in October and faced up to six months in jail.

Arpaio’s attorney has said his legal team plans to push for the case to be dismissed in the wake of Friday’s pardon.

2016: Trump endorsement

Arpaio was one of Trump’s earliest campaign backers and proved to be a vocal supporter of his law-and-order pledge.

The then-sheriff endorsed Trump in January 2016, saying, “Everything I believe in he’s doing and he’s going to do it when he becomes president.” 

“This is a man when we talk about borders, this is a man that believes in borders and getting his endorsement means a lot to me,” Trump said responding to the endorsement.

Arpaio was often seen on the 2016 campaign trail doing the warm-up act at Trump’s rallies.

2017: Presidential pardon

The White House announced Friday that Trump had pardoned Arpaio, which was met with swift backlash from Democrats and some Republican lawmakers.

“Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement Friday.

“The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.” 

The White House stressed Arpaio’s years of public service in explaining the pardon.

“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the White House said in a statement. 

“Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon,” the statement added.

Monday: His future 

The 85-year-old former law enforcement official does not appear to be giving up his podium, despite backlash over his policing history and pardon.

Arpaio told media outlets that he plans to hold a press conference on Monday to discuss his future and the legal process to date.

“I said publicly recently, ‘Pardon or no pardon I will be with [Trump] until the end.’ And I am going to having a news conference early next week and get to the bottom of this, and show the abuse of the judicial system in politics,” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Friday.

“I’m not going down without trying to defend myself to all of those people who don’t like what I’ve done.”

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