Trump Defends Controversial Arpaio Pardon by Pointing to Past Presidents

Image: President Donald Trump answers a question during a joint press conference
President Donald Trump answers a question during a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö holds on Aug. 28, 2017, at the White House in Washington.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

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By Andrew Rafferty

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday defended his controversial pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio by listing “dangerous criminals,” “drug dealers” and a “criminal leaker” who were either pardoned by Democratic presidents or had their sentences commuted.

“Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders. And Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration,” Trump said during a news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the White House.

Anticipating the question, Trump listed a number of convictions that President Barack Obama or President Bill Clinton intervened on.

Among those cited by Trump were financier Marc Rich, who was charged with tax evasion, fled the U.S. and was pardoned by Clinton, and Chelsea Manning, an American service member who disclosed documents to WikiLeaks and whose sentence was commuted by Obama.

Trump also criticized Clinton for pardoning Susan Rosenberg, once a member of the Weather Underground terrorist group, during his final days in office. Protest came from both sides of the aisle for freeing her in early 2001. Like the Arpaio pardon, the clemency granted in each of those case was controversial. Trump’s decision did not follow the usual Department of Justice process, and the sheriff had not even requested a pardon.

Related: Trump's Arpaio Pardon Definitely Was Not by the Book

The president also defended his decision to announce the Arpaio pardon as Hurricane Harvey barreled toward the coast of Texas Friday evening.

“In the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally,” Trump.

Some Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have criticized Trump for issuing the pardon for the sheriff convicted of contempt of court charges in July.