President Donald Trump appeared to hint that a pardon might soon be coming for convicted former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Though many anticipated the president would issue a pardon at his rally in Arizona on Tuesday night, Trump decided against it though he did ask the crowd about the controversial former sheriff who was convicted last month of criminal contempt when he ignored a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.
“By the way, I’m just curious. Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked the Arizona crowd, which erupted into chants of “Pardon Joe!”
“So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” the president continued.
The sheriff of Maricopa County in Phoenix until he lost a 2016 re-election bid, Arpaio has been a strong supporter of the president from the beginning and has been an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration. Called “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Arpaio has earned the admiration of conservatives and the ire of liberals for his controversial decisions in his more than two decades as sheriff, like housing inmates in tents, issuing them pink underwear and restricting diets of those who deface the American flag while in jail cells.
There were rumors that Trump would issue a pardon for the sheriff when visiting his home state, with the president even telling Fox News that he was “seriously considering” a pardon for the 85 year-old former sheriff.
Although White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that Trump would make such an announcement at the rally, the president himself heavily hinted at one.
“I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine. Okay?” Trump told the crowd Tuesday. “But, but I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. Is that okay? All right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”
That decision not to pardon him in Phoenix was “their decision — right now,” Arpaio told NBC News.
“I’ve been with him from day one,” he said of Trump, “and I’ll always be with him and support him.”
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