House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is breaking with President Trump over his decision to pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
“The speaker does not agree with the decision,” 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.”
The White House announced Trump would be pardoning Arpaio in a Friday night statement, released as deadly Hurricane Harvey was making landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas.
“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the statement read.
“Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
Ryan becomes the highest-ranking GOP lawmaker to break with Trump over the decision to pardon the 85-year-old, who was convicted of contempt of court for disobeying a 2011 court order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow that required him to stop racially profiling Latinos as part of signature immigration round-ups.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s July ruling came after a five-day June and July trial, in which Department of Justice prosecutors argued that Arpaio had willfully ignored the order. Arpaio’s argued that the court order was unclear and that, although mistakes had been made, the violations were unintended.
“The evidence at trial proves beyond a reasonable doubt and the Court finds that Judge (G. Murray) Snow issued a clear and definite order enjoining Defendant from detaining persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed; that Defendant knew of the order; and that Defendant willfully violated the order by failing to do anything to ensure his subordinates’ compliance and by directing them to continue to detain persons for whom no criminal charges could be filed,” Bolton wrote in the ruling. “Because the Court finds that Defendant willfully violated an order of the court, it finds Defendant guilty of criminal contempt.”
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.