Trump defends pardoning former Sheriff Arpaio
President Trump defended pardoning controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Monday, calling him a “patriot” who was unjustly treated by former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department.
Speaking from the White House at a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, Trump read off a list of past pardons and commutations that presidents have taken heat for, including Obama’s handling of Chelsea Manning and Oscar Lopez Rivera.
Arpaio was charged with defying a court order telling him to stop racially profiling Latinos, and Trump insinuated on Monday that the Obama administration was trying to sink Arpaio’s reelection campaign for sheriff with the charges.
“He lost in a fairly close election,” Trump said. “He would’ve won the election. They just hammered him before the election. I thought that was a very, very unfair thing to do.”
Obama commuted the prison sentences of Manning and Rivera. Manning leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, and Rivera was a member of a Puerto Rican nationalist group responsible for bombings.
Trump also cited President Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich, a former donor, who had fled the country during his prosecution for tax evasion.
Trump was criticized for announcing the pardon late on Friday night as Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas Coast. He said he made the announcement at that hour because he knew more people would be watching cable news.
“I assumed the ratings would be far higher than normal with the hurricane just starting,” Trump said.
This story was updated at 5:26 p.m.
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