President Donald Trump says he may grant a pardon to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio following his recent conviction in federal court, prompting outrage among critics who say the move would amount to an endorsement of racism.
The report was welcome news for the former Phoenix-area sheriff, who lost a re-election bid in November and who was convicted of misdemeanor contempt of court on July 31. But it angered immigrant rights activists and others who say it amounts to support for racism on the same day that Trump disavowed white nationalists whose rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent this weekend, leaving one woman dead.
A federal judge ruled in 2013 that Arpaio’s officers racially profiled Latinos. But the sheriff refused to stop his immigration patrols, eventually leading to the criminal contempt of court case that he’s embroiled in. It also contributed to his failed re-election bid last year.
Arpaio said Monday that he learned of the president’s comments in the morning and was glad he stood by him.
“I didn’t ask for it, but if he’s going to offer, I will accept, because I’m not guilty. So appreciate his interest in my matter here in Phoenix,” Arpaio said.
Mark Goldman, his attorney, said he was filing two motions on Monday afternoon for a judgment of acquittal and to vacate the verdict for a new trial. The motions are not appeals.
“We’re filing these motions because there was absolutely no evidence in support of the judge’s verdict, the verdict was contrary to the evidence provided in court, and the verdict is a gross miscarriage of justice,” Goldman said.
Trump on Sunday called Arpaio “a great American patriot” and said he hates to see what has happened to him, according to the Fox News report.
On Monday, the president condemned hate groups and said racism is evil in a statement that was much more forceful than he’d made earlier after the weekend clashes in Virginia that left one woman dead after a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters who opposed a rally by white nationalists. The white nationalists were protesting a plan to remove a statute of Confederate Gen Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park.
“Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America,” he said.
Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director for the ACLU, criticized the idea that Trump could pardon Arpaio, saying the former sheriff had violated court orders that prohibited illegal detention of Latinos.
“Make no mistake: This would be an official presidential endorsement of racism,” Wang said.