Speaker of the House Paul Ryan opposes President Trump’s pardoning of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an aide said Saturday, joining Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain in criticizing the decision.
“The speaker does not agree with this decision,” said Doug Andres, a spokesman for Ryan. “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.”
Trump on Friday spared Arpaio, from the Phoenix area, the prospect of serving jail time in granting the first presidential pardon of his turbulent tenure, wiping away the lawman’s recent federal conviction stemming from his immigration patrols that focused on Latinos.
“The president has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions,” McCain said after the Friday pardon announcement.
The pardon has received support from other Arizona Republicans, including Rep. Trent Franks, who said the ex-lawman is a “patriot.”
“In his last days, (President) Obama commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning — a treasonous intelligence analyst who shared a trove of intelligence with the infamous Wikileaks,” Franks, R-Ariz., said Saturday in a statement to Fox News.
“While no one can dispute Manning acted to undermine our country’s national security, Joe Arpaio has spent a lifetime trying to maintain it. … It is easy to discern that Arpaio is a patriot, while Manning is a traitor.”
Beyond McCain and Ryan, top congressional Republicans — including frequent Trump target Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky — have yet to issue public statements on the pardoning.
However, top congressional Democrats seized on the pardoning in their continuing efforts to throttle Trump’s presidency and lay ground work for the 2018 congressional races and the 2020 White House contest.
“We’re sick to our stomach. Donald Trump just pardoned Joe Arpaio,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a fundraising letter Saturday.
Anne Kirkpatrick, a former prosecutor trying to unseat Arizona GOP Rep. Martha McSally, late Friday night said Arpaio instituted “racist” police policies and attacked Republicans for not opposing the pardon.
“Those who remain silent are complicit,” the Arizona Democrat said in a fundraising letter.
The White House said Friday that the 85-year-old Arpaio was a “worthy candidate” for the pardon, citing his “life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”
Trump granted the pardon less than a month after a judge found Arpaio — the sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County until losing re-election last year — guilty of a misdemeanor contempt-of-court charge in a trial that was prosecuted by the president’s own Justice Department.
“Pardoning Joe Arpaio is a slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County, especially the Latino community and those he victimized as he systematically and illegally violated their civil rights,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said Arpaio should be given credit for his crime-fighting efforts and allowed to “move on” and enjoy his retirement.
Arpaio earned a national reputation by taking aggressive action to arrest immigrants in the country illegally. But years of legal issues and related costs took a toll on his political power at home, and he was handily defeated by a Democrat in the 2016 election.
Arpaio defied court orders that he stop the patrols.
Trump issued the pardon seven months after taking office, though it is not unprecedented for a president to issue a pardon in their first year in office.
George H. W. Bush granted clemency after seven months in office, said Jeffrey Crouch, a professor of politics at American University who wrote a book on presidential pardons.
President Bill Clinton ignited a major controversy on his final day in office with a last-minute pardon for fugitive financier Marc Rich, the ex-husband of a major Democratic fundraiser.