U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday granted a pardon to former Arizona lawman and political ally Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” less than a month after he was convicted of criminal contempt in a case involving his department’s racial profiling policy.
Trump had signalled this week that the first presidential pardon of his administration would go to Arpaio, 85, whom he has frequently praised for his hardline immigration stance.
The White House said the ex-sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County was a “worthy candidate” for a presidential pardon.
The action came several days after Trump, at a rally in downtown Phoenix, strongly hinted that he intended to issue a pardon.
Both questioned Obama’s birthplace
“So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked supporters. “I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK.”
Arpaio, who became linked with Trump during the campaign for their hardline immigration views, was convicted of a misdemeanour for intentionally defying a judge’s order to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
Both politicians questioned the authenticity of then-President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and have a similar history in sparring with judges.
In the statement Friday night, the White House said, “Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”