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Federal court to appoint special prosecutor to defend Arpaio's guilty verdict after Trump pardon

Federal court to appoint special prosecutor to defend Arpaio's guilty verdict after Trump pardon

A federal appeals court will name a special prosecutor to argue that the guilty verdict against former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio should remain on the books despite President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' MORE's pardon.

BuzzFeed News reported the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday that, since the Justice Department won't defend Arpaio's conviction for contempt, a special prosecutor is needed.

Arpaio, an ally of Trump's who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  Cindy McCain: Arizona election audit is 'ludicrous' MORE (R-Ariz.), reportedly said the appointment is "totally improper" and represents an "accusatory role" for the court.

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Arpaio had been accused of racially profiling Latinos in his hard-line immigration enforcement as sheriff. He was convicted of criminal contempt for disobeying a federal judge's order regarding detaining people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. 

Trump in August of last year pardoned the controversial former sheriff, his first pardon as president. At the time, Trump called Arpaio an "American patriot" and said he "kept Arizona safe."

In October, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton issued an order shutting down requests by the former sheriff's attorneys to have the facts behind the conviction thrown out after the pardon.

Bolton said in the order that Trump's pardon was an "executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping."

"The pardon undoubtedly spared Defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, 'revise the historical facts' of this case," Bolton wrote. 

In December, the Justice Department told the 9th Circuit it would "represent the government's interests" on appeal — and that it would not defend the judge's order.

Legal advocacy groups argued that the 9th Circuit should name a lawyer to defend the judge's order. The groups said in a friend-of-court brief that the court should get "the full advantage of the adversarial process."

In its 2-1 ruling on Tuesday, the 9th Circuit agreed.

Arpaio faces a rough GOP primary in the race to replace Flake, facing off against Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyEx-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds Arizona state senator announces bid for Kirkpatrick's seat Democratic Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick says she won't seek reelection MORE and former state Sen. Kelli Ward. The Republican nominee is likely to face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in November's general election.