White House staffers have reportedly prepared documents for President Donald Trump to issue a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Trump has yet to announce a pardon for Arpaio, but strongly hinted that he would give the controversial sheriff a reprieve during a campaign rally in Phoenix.
On Aug. 23, White House officials disclosed to CNN that they had prepared paperwork that would allow Trump to speedily pardon Arpaio once the president makes a final decision on the matter.
The officials added that they were prepared to defend the potential pardon by emphasizing Arpaio's 50 years of service in the U.S. military and law enforcement.
Arpaio, 85, served as sheriff of Maricopa County from 1993 until he lost re-election in November 2016. The former law enforcement officer's methods were highly controversial. During his career, he placed women and juveniles into chain gangs, forced male inmates to wear pink underwear as a humiliation tactic, reduced daily prison meals and herded inmates into an open-air jail in sweltering temperatures, Fox News reports.
Arpaio was also accused of racially profiling Latino residents. In May 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the sheriff, asserting that he had ordered his officers to routinely stop and harass Latino residents to check their citizenship status, NBC News reports.
On July 31, Arpaio was found guilty in contempt of federal court. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that the former sheriff had violated a court order prohibiting his officers from detaining Maricopa residents based only on the suspicion that they were undocumented. Arpaio's office had arrested and detained several Latinos who were citizens. Arpaio could be sentenced up to six months in jail, the Los Angeles Times reports.
On Aug. 14, Trump disclosed that he was considering a pardon for Arpaio, who had stumped for his campaign during the 2016 presidential race.
"I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio," Trump told Fox News. "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."
On Aug. 22, Trump held a campaign rally in Phoenix, where he was heavily rumored to announce a pardon for Arpaio. Critics asserted that offering a reprieve for the former sheriff would pervert justice and inflame racial tensions in Arizona.
"This should be the end of an ugly chapter in Arizona history," Democratic State Sen. Martin Quezada of Arizona told The Republic. "To have (Arpaio) finally be held accountable for the harm he caused all these years, and then to have the president to come in and alter that outcome -- we can't stand by and let that happen."
Quezada added that an Arpaio pardon "would send a very strong message that ... targeting people based on their race and treating them differently because of their ethnicity are acceptable behaviors."
Trump did not announce a pardon for Arpaio during the campaign rally in Arizona, but gave every indication that he would at a later date.
"Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?" Trump asked the crowd, Vox reports. "Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?"
The crowd of Trump supporters chanted that they wanted Trump to pardon the former sheriff. The president responded: "I won't do it tonight because I don't want to cause any controversy ... I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine," CNN reports.
Meanwhile, Arpaio asserted that he would continue supporting Trump even if he was not given a pardon.
"I've been with him from day one, and I'll always be with him and support him," the former sheriff told NBC News.
On Aug. 21, a OH Predictive Insights survey found that 50 percent of Arizona residents did not want Trump to pardon Arpaio, while 21 percent said it would be a good move. Twenty-nine percent of respondents were undecided.