President Trump has pardoned Joe Arpaio, the controversial former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., the White House announced Friday night.
“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 stressing Arpaio's public service.
“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.
Trump later shared the news on Twitter, writing of Arpaio, "He kept Arizona safe!"
I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2017
"We're very excited. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work," Jack Wilenchik, an attorney for Arpaio, told CNN by phone. "We're very proud to see the president has done the right thing."
Wilenchik said he was contacted by White House counsel on Friday afternoon saying that Trump had signed the pardon paperwork. The attorney indicated that Arpaio's legal team would now move to ask for the case against Arpaio to be dismissed.
"Frankly, this saves everybody a lot of trouble," he said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said earlier this week that Trump would make an announcement on Arpaio at an "appropriate time."
The announcement was released Friday evening as most media attention focused on a Category 4 hurricane barreling toward the Gulf Coast, impacting Texas and Louisiana.
Trump had hinted at a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday that he was preparing to pardon the controversial former sheriff, an early supporter of the president's.
Arpaio had been found guilty in a Justice Department investigation of racially profiling Latinos. He was convicted July 31 of criminal contempt for disobeying a federal judge's order on detaining individuals suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.
Democrats and civil rights groups blasted Trump's decision to pardon Arpaio on Friday, arguing that while Trump was within his rights to pardon the former sheriff the move was unjustified.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ripped Trump's pardon of a "fellow birther," tweeting that the move "makes a mockery of rule of law, & says communities of color can be targeted & abused w/ total impunity."
The NAACP called Arpaio "a remorseless criminal who took the law into his own hands and enacted racist policing policies," while the American Civil Liberties Union called Trump's pardon a "presidential endorsement of racism."
“On the same night that President Trump has directed the military to implement his ban on transgender people, his decision to pardon Arpaio is yet another insult to marginalized voices across our nation," interim NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement.
"In the wake of the riot in Charlottesville started by domestic terrorists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, Trump has once again shown us his true colors and his support for racism and violence. By pardoning Arpaio, Trump has endorsed Arpaio’s abhorrent behavior and has opened the gates for other bigots to follow in his footsteps."
Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, noted that Trump announced the pardon "during a natural disaster that could hurt millions."
"That's not presidential, that's a coward," said Perez, who sued Arpaio while serving in the Obama Justice Department's Civil Rights Division
Democrats had warned Trump not to pardon Arpaio at the campaign rally Tuesday, saying it would inflame racial tension at a time when the nation was on edge from the unrest in Charlottesville, Va.
But many Republicans in Arizona, including Reps. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Arizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems MORE and Andy Biggs, had been pushing Trump to make the pardon, arguing that he had been railroaded by the Justice Department under former President Obama.
Biggs had called Arpaio’s conviction “the culmination of a political witch hunt by the Obama administration to sideline and destroy a formidable opponent.”
Updated: 10:21 p.m.