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."
"I think he’s going to be just fine, OK? But, but I won’t do it tonight," Trump says of pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio https://t.co/F0WuDC31IR
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 23, 2017
The condemnation was swift:
He just basically said he'll pardon Arpaio but not tonight. That Arpaio was just doing his job. This is beyond the pale.
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) August 23, 2017
— Puente Arizona (@PuenteAZ) August 23, 2017
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 Vox notes, "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.
— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 23, 2017
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:
(12) So there are good reasons for the pardon power, but a pardon here is a handshake w/ racists and a middle finger to the rule of law.
— Cecillia Wang (@WangCecillia) August 23, 2017
Many other rights advocates, legal experts, and journalists condemned Arpaio's pending pardon on Twitter:
"Sheriff Joe can feel good." Trump just promised to pardon Arpaio, the racist convict who should be wearing pink panties forever
— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) August 23, 2017
Arpaio is a convicted criminal. So much for law and order. https://t.co/NarheZ0xfm
— Enrique Acevedo (@Enrique_Acevedo) August 23, 2017
— Gloria Totten (@gtottendc) August 23, 2017
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) August 23, 2017
— Mi Familia Vota (@MiFamiliaVota) August 23, 2017
— CAP Action (@CAPAction) August 23, 2017