WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio during a Category 4 hurricane, saying, “I assumed the ratings would be far higher.”
Asked about the Friday night pardon at a joint news conference, Trump praised Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt after facing accusations of racial profiling and who ran an infamously brutal “Tent City” jail.
“He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona,” Trump said. “He’s strong on borders and strong on illegal immigration. He is loved in Arizona, and I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly.”
When asked about the rationale for the pardon, which did not pass through the usual pardon process, Trump engaged in whataboutism, bringing up other controversial presidential pardons, such as President Bill Clinton’s pardon of billionaire oil trader Marc Rich. He also referred to President Barack Obama’s commutation of the sentence of Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. (Obama did not pardon Manning, despite Trump’s claim that he “perhaps” pardoned her.)
In Manning’s case, Trump again criticized leakers, a oft-repeated complaint.
Trump also claimed “a lot of people think it was the right thing to do,” despite facing widespread criticism for the pardon, including from House SpeakerPaul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).