President Donald Trump says he’s seriously considering pardoning controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
If Trump were to pardon Arpaio, it would be the first time the president has exercised that power in office.
Arpaio is the outspoken former Maricopa County sheriff who has made headlines for years with his hard-line stance on immigrants and treatment of inmates in his jail.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Trump Got Arpaio Pardon Talk Going on Fox & Called Arpaio a ‘Patriot’
Trump made the pardon revelation to Fox News while at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. At first, the comments didn’t get as much attention as they might have otherwise because of the Charlottesville car ramming attack.
“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” the president said to Fox News on August 13. “He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him.”
Trump also said, “Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe? He has protected people from crimes and saved lives. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
According to Politico, Arpaio was a supporter of Trump during the presidential election.
2. Arpaio Was Found Guilty of Criminal Contempt
Why would Arpaio need pardoning? Because he was convicted of criminal contempt only weeks before Trump made the pardon comments, in a clash between the sheriff and court system on immigration questions.
The former sheriff was found guilty of ignoring “a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants,” reported The Washington Post.
The former sheriff could face six months in jail when he is sentenced in October. He’s 85-years-old.
CNN described the case as a “racial profiling case” that involved “continuing patrols targeting immigrants” and says “Arpaio has contended the order wasn’t clear and he didn’t intend to violate it.”
AZCentral reported, “U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow ordered Arpaio in 2011 to stop enforcing immigration law because his deputies were pulling over people based solely upon the color of their skin. Never mind that some of those people were American citizens or immigrants legally in the United States.”
3. The Pardon Could Happen Quickly
Trump told Fox News on August 13 that the pardon could happen very fast – possibly even in a few days.
He called Arpaio an “outstanding sheriff” and said he’s respected by a lot of people in his home state. Trump also told Fox: “I might do it right away, maybe early this week. I am seriously thinking about it.”
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the U.S. president the power to “grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.”
According to Politico, Arpaio says he hasn’t spoken with Trump directly but would accept a pardon, saying, “I never asked for it, but I’ll accept it. I’m not guilty, that’s for sure.”
4. Trump Retweeted a Fox Story on the Possible Arpaio Pardon
President Trump started out the morning of August 15 by retweeting a Fox story about his consideration of an Arpaio pardon.
Oddly, he then retweeted a comment by a man from England named Mike Holden who wrote: “He’s a fascist, so not unusual” about the pardon story. It wasn’t clear whether Holden was talking about Trump or Arpaio. Trump then deleted that tweet.
5. Arpaio Called Himself ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’
Arpaio was the Maricopa County sheriff in Phoenix, Arizona for 24 years until he was defeated at the ballot box in November 2016.
He became infamous or heroic – depending on your perspective – for his tough stances on inmate rights and immigration, calling himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff.”
Arpaio famously made inmates in his jail wear pink in a tent city blamed for its soaring temperatures.