'An Official Endorsement of Racism': Trump Hints at Pardon for Sheriff Joe

Inflatable figures of President Donald Trump in KKK garb and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio in prisoner uniform outide a rally in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, August 22. (Photo: Monica D. Spencer/flickr/cc)

'An Official Endorsement of Racism': Trump Hints at Pardon for Sheriff Joe

Human rights groups and advocates swiftly respond to Trump's reassurance that America's so-called "toughest sheriff," a convicted criminal awaiting his sentence, will be "just fine"

Human rights groups and advocates were outraged when President Donald Trump, from his controversial rally in Arizona Tuesday night, strongly implied he would pardon Joe Arpaio, the notorious former sheriff of Maricopa County who has been convicted of violating a federal court order to stop discriminating against Latinos in his county.

"So was sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?" Trump asked a roaring crowd. "I'll make a prediction: I think he's going to be just fine, OK?" Trump said of Arpaio, who is scheduled to be sentenced in October. "But I won't do it tonight because I don't want to cause any controversy."


The condemnation was swift:

The president's remarks Tuesday followed his admission to Fox News last week that he was "seriously considering" a pardon for the former sheriff. Trump's relationship with Arpaio pre-dates his presidency, and as Voxnotes, "Arpaio played a key role in validating Donald Trump, whose candidacy was initially seen as a joke, as the champion of hardline immigration policies and the cultural anxieties that came alongside them." Arpaio participated in Trump's first major campaign rally in Phoenix in August 2015, and that following January the former sheriff formally endorsed Trump for president.

As Trump continued his long-winded and bizarre speech from Arizona on Tuesday night, rights advocates began raising alarms over renewed concerns that 85-year-old Arpaio won't be held accountable for demonstrating, as the judge put it, a "flagrant disregard" for the court mandate to stop systemically racially profiling and detaining county residents based on suspicions about their immigration status.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) began circulating a petition, and offered five reasons Arpaio wasn't just "doing his job." In addition to highlighting his racial profiling of Latinos, the ACLU acknowledges denouncements of the former sheriff's actions from the Justice Department and federal courts, outlines the conditions of his infamous Tent City, and details accusations that Arpaio "ignored hundreds of sex crime cases," all while using his powerful position to intimidate his critics.

Calling the potential pardon a "direct attack on the rule of law, as well as the U.S. Constitution," ACLU deputy legal director Cecillia Wang explained the history and established precedents for the presidential pardon in a series of tweets:

Many other rights advocates, legal experts, and journalists condemned Arpaio's pending pardon on Twitter:

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