(CNSNews.com) - With cable news shows focused on the arrival of Hurricane Harvey Friday night, the White House announced that President Trump had pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Trump supporter who became a target of the Obama Justice Department shortly after Barack Obama took office.
Arpaio was convicted last month of misdemeanor criminal contempt of court stemming from a civil rights lawsuit that accused him of racially profiling Latinos in the course of his law enforcement duties. He faced six months in jail.
In between tweets about Hurricane Harvey Friday night, President Trump tweeted about Arapio:
“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!” Trump wrote.
The White House Office of the Press Secretary released the following statement around 9 p.m. Friday night:
Today, President Donald J. Trump granted a Presidential pardon to Joe Arpaio, former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Arpaio’s life and career, which began at the age of 18 when he enlisted in the military after the outbreak of the Korean War, exemplify selfless public service. After serving in the Army, Arpaio became a police officer in Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas, NV and later served as a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), formerly the Bureau of Narcotics. After 25 years of admirable service, Arpaio went on to lead the DEA’s branch in Arizona.
In 1992, the problems facing his community pulled Arpaio out of retirement to return to law enforcement. He ran and won a campaign to become Sheriff of Maricopa County. Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.
Arpaio told Fox News’s Sean Hannity Friday night he’s “very humbled” by Trump’s pardon and he plans to hold a news conference next week, Monday or Tuesday, to “get to the bottom of this – show the abuse of the judicial system and politics.”
“I’m not going down without trying to defend myself,” the former sheriff told Hannity.
Trump’s pardon has brought howls of outrage from his many critics:
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement, calling Trump’s pardon of Arpaio “a presidential endorsement of racism."
(This is the same ACLU that praised President Obama's January 2017 commutation of Chelsea Manning's remaining prison sentence. Manning, a transgender, was court-martialed for leaking classified information to the press.)
“Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing,” the ACLU said in a statement about the Arpaio pardon. “Once again, the president has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of color and have been struck down by the courts.”
In two tweets, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also blasted Trump's pardon: "@POTUS pardon of fellow birther Arpaio makes mockery of rule of law, & says communities of color can be targeted & abused w/ total impunity," she wrote. "After yesterday, it’s clear that @realDonaldTrump can’t tell: right from wrong, fact from fiction, patriotism from white nationalism."
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, no friend of Trump, also condemned the Arpaio pardon:
“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. 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.”
Trump hinted at a rally in Phoenix on Monday that he would soon pardon the 85-year-old retired sheriff.