President Trump had asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions about whether it would be possible for the government to drop the criminal case against former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio months ago, according to a new report by The Washington Post.
The Post said Trump was told it would be inappropriate to move ahead with such an action, and decided to let the case go to trial, and if Arpaio was convicted, he could grant clemency.
“We knew the president wanted to do this for some time now and had worked to prepare for whenever the moment may come,” said one White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity
Arpaio, known as “Sheriff Joe,” was found to have disobeyed a 2011 court order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow that required the 85-year-old to stop racially profiling Latinos as part of signature immigration round-ups.
The report comes one day after the White House announced Trump would grant Arpaio a pardon.
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein said on Saturday the pardon demonstrates “flagrant disregard for the rule of law in this country.”
“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,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) in a statement.
“The speaker does not agree with the decision,” Paul Ryan’s spokesman Doug Andres told The Wall Street Journal. “Law-enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”