Trump says he pardoned Joe Arpaio right as Hurricane Harvey began wreaking havoc because 'I assumed the ratings would be far higher'

President Donald Trump said Monday that he announced his pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio right as Hurricane Harvey was moving into southeast Texas because "I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally."

Standing alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at a White House press conference, Trump was asked by Fox News reporter John Roberts what he would say to those who have been critical, including Republicans, of pardoning Arpaio.

Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff, was convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a court order to stop racial profiling of Latinos.

"What do you say to your critics, some even in your own party, who say it was the wrong thing to do?" Roberts asked.

25 PHOTOS
Joe Arpaio through the years
See Gallery
Joe Arpaio through the years
Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, in Arizona, and called 'America's Toughest Sheriff', had the controversial idea to set-up a 'Tent City' as an extension of the Maricopa County Jail. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Sygma via Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 28: Prisoners dressed in stripped inmate informs walk under the hot Arizona sun at tent city jail opened near Phoenix by the Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio claims to be 'the toughest Sheriff in the United States.' (Photo credit should read JEAN-LOUP SENSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Teenage inmates inside a tent at the Maricopa County 'Pup Tent City' jail complex for juveniles in Phoenix December 23, 1998. Pup Tents is the third in a series of controversial Tent Cities that Sheriff Joe Arpaio has opened since 1993, all in an effort to ease jail overcrowding, provide more jail space for arrestees and save taxpayers millions of dollars. Males were introduced to Tent City in 1993, and convicted females went into Tents in 1995. The entire complex today houses about 1,400 convicted males and females. (photo by Mike Fiala)
PHOENIX - JULY 8: Barney, a three year old St. Bernard, stares out at inmates who have stopped by his cell for a visit at the jail's fourth floor Maricopa Animal Safe Hospice (MASH) July 8, 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona. 17 female inmates, whom volunteer and go through a formal interview process for the privileged duty of caring for the animals, care for 20 dogs and 31 cats in the five year old program started by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The inmates have two days removed from their jail sentence for each day worked in the unit. The program takes in animals that have been abused, abandoned or are evidence in a criminal case and keeps them until they are adopted. Inmates feed, clean, groom and provide obedience lessons for the 587 animals (dogs, cats, birds, horses) that have gone through the hospice since it began. (Photo by Jeff Topping/Getty Images)
[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Joe Arpaio, 'America's Toughest Sheriff' at the annual Fiesta del Sol parade in Phoenix.
PHOENIX - FEBRUARY 11: Maricopa County Sheriff Officer Joe Arpaio speaks during a news conference regarding an immigration raid his officers conducted at HMI Contracting February 11, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. Several undocumented workers were arrested after Arpaio ordered the raid on the company, which has a contract with the County Board of Supervisors to do landscaping at county buildings. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 17: Inmates walk as they are moved after being ordered by Maricopa County Sheriff Officer Joe Arpaio (R), looking on, to be placed into new housing to open up new beds for maximum security inmates on April 17, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. Arpaio has been facing criticism from Hispanic activists and lawmakers, alleging that Arpaio's crackdown methods on illegal immigrants involve racial profiling. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 17: Inmates walk as they are moved after being ordered by Maricopa County Sheriff Officer Joe Arpaio to be placed into new housing to open up new beds for maximum security inmates on April 17, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. Arpaio has been facing criticism from Hispanic activists and lawmakers, alleging that Arpaio's crackdown methods on illegal immigrants involve racial profiling. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
PHOENIX - APRIL 29: Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to participants of the Border Security Expo on April 29, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. Arpaio, promoted by his supporters as 'America's Toughest Sheriff', voiced his support for Arizona's new immigration enforcement law. His deputies conduct frequent sweeps to arrest undocumented immigrants in his county, which includes the state capitol Phoenix. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 17: Maricopa County Sheriff Officer Joe Arpaio's name plate and business cards sit on his desk at his office on April 17, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. Arpaio has been facing criticism from Hispanic activists and lawmakers, alleging that Arpaio's crackdown methods on illegal immigrants involve racial profiling. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
PHOENIX - APRIL 30: Undocumented immigrant Jose Hechavaria (R), 43, stands with fellow prisoners in the yard of the Maricopa County Tent City Jail on April 30, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. Hechavaria, a 13-year resident of Arizona, said he was arrested by sheriff's deputies on a DUI charge and then held because of his illegal immigration statues. Some 200 undocumented immigrants are currently serving time in the facility. The controversial jail is run by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been an outspoken critic of illegal immigration and a supporter of Arizona's new tough immigration law. Prisoners at the facility are fed twice a day, sleep in non-airconditioned tents and are issued striped prison uniforms and pink underwear and socks. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks with a reporter outside his famous tent city jail for misdemeanor offenses May 3, 2010. A few hours later he officially announced he would not be running for Arizona Governor saying, I have come so far and accomplished so much in the past 18 years as Sheriff that to leave now just doesn�t make sense,� said Arpaio. 'Right now, we are standing in the cross-hairs of history in this state and as Sheriff of the most populous county in Arizona, there is much work yet to do.' AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Maricopa Country Detention Officer Rene Ansley holds up one of the pink boxer style underware male inmates wear inside Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tent city jail May 3, 2010, in Phoenix, Arizona. The inmates also have matching pink socks. This area of the tent city houses misdemeanor offenders. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
RANCHO BERNARDO, CA - AUGUST 10: Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks during a visit to the Rancho Bernardo Inn on August 10, 2010 in Rancho Bernardo, California. Arpaio, who is Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, gained national attention for using deputies to conduct raids to apprehend illegal immigrants and building large outdoor prison tents to house inmates. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 19: Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks at a Tea Party Express rally at Stoney's Rockin' Country October 19, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The tour, part of an initiative to get conservatives elected to the House and Senate, will move across country and conclude on November 1, 2010 in Concord, New Hampshire the day before the contentious mid-term elections (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
CRESTON, IA - DECEMBER 27: Texas governor and Republican candidate for president Rick Perry (C) walks with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (L) before a campaign stop at Adams Street Espresso on December 27, 2011 in Creston, Iowa. With one week to go before the Iowa caucuses, Rick Perry continues his bus tour through Iowa. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 11: Immigrant inmates line up for breakfast at the Maricopa County Tent City jail on March 11, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. Striped uniforms and pink undergarments are standard issue at the facility. The tent jail, run by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, houses undocumented immigrants who are serving up to one year after being convicted of crime in the county. Although many of immigrants have lived in the U.S for years, often with families, most will be deported to Mexico after serving their sentences. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 11: Immigrant inmates walk for excercise at the Maricopa County Tent City jail on March 11, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. The striped uniforms and pink undergarments are standard issue at the facility. The tent jail, run by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, houses undocumented immigrants who are serving up to one year after being convicted of crime in the county. Although many of immigrants have lived in the U.S for years, often with families, most will be deported to Mexico after serving their sentences. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 3: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio salutes Muhannad Al Kusairy during a meeting at his office in Phoenix, Arizona on Monday, June 3, 2013. Al Kusairy is hoping to taking steps to become a Maricopa County Deputy Sheriff once he becomes a citizen. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MARSHALLTOWN, IA - JANUARY 26: Sheriff Joe Arpaio (L) of Maricopa County, Arizona listens as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the press prior to a rally on January 26, 2016 in Marshalltown, Iowa. Arpaio today announced his support for Trump's presidential bid. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is surrounded by protesters and members of the media at the the site of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in downtown Cleveland on the second day of the convention on July 19, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Many people have stayed away from downtown due to road closures and the fear of violence. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio gestures to the crowd while delivering a speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Sheriff Joe Arpaio exits the stage after delivering a speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, July 21, 2016. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio takes part in the convention openings on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"Well a lot of people said it was the right thing to do, John," Trump said. "And actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I figured the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally. You know, the hurricane was just starting. And I put it out that we pardoned, as we say, Sheriff Joe."

"He's done a great job for the people of Arizona," Trump continued. "He's very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration. He is loved in Arizona. I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly when they came down with their big decision to go get him right before the election voting started, as you know. And he lost in a fairly close election, he would've won the election but they just hammered him before the election. I thought that was a very, very unfair thing to do."

 

Trump added that when he mentioned Arpaio during his Arizona rally last week, "the place went absolutely crazy."

 

The president then rattled off a list of controversial pardons and commutations handed down by recent presidents, appearing to equate his pardon of Arpaio with some of the most ridiculed pardons in recent decades.

 

Trump mentioned Marc Rich, the businessman who was convicted of tax evasion and for making oil deals with Iran during the hostage crisis. Rich was pardoned by President Bill Clinton during Clinton's last day in office. Trump also noted the commutation to Chelsea Manning, the former Army soldier who disclosed confidential information to WikiLeaks. Manning served seven years in federal prison before President Barack Obama commuted her sentence shortly before his time in office was complete.

 

Trump incorrectly suggested that Manning was "perhaps" pardoned by Obama.

 

Trump did not provide any legal rationale for why Arpaio deserved a pardon, but he did call the 85-year-old a "great law enforcement person" and "someone who's won many, many elections."

 

"Sheriff Joe is a patriot," Trump said. "Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders."

 

"I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe," Trump added.

 

"And I think the people of Arizona who really knew him best would agree with me."

 

Trump's Friday-night pardon of Arpaio was met with widespread ridicule on both sides of the aisle, including from both of Arizona's Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake.

 

Arpaio became a notorious figure over the more than two decades he spent leading the sheriff's office. He is perhaps best known for keeping inmates in a "tent city" jail under inhumane conditions. He once called the sweltering open-air facility a "concentration camp."

 

An outspoken Trump supporter, Arpaio was also one of the leading figures of the "birther" movement, which sought to delegitimize Obama by claiming he was not born in the US.

 

The Washington Post reported this weekend that Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions months ago whether dropping the case against Arpaio was a possibility, to which Sessions said it would be inappropriate. He did say then, though, that a pardon could be granted, a move about which Trump was reportedly "gung-ho."

 

NOW WATCH: The White House is undergoing renovations — here's how it changed after a massive facelift in the 1950s

 

See Also:

 

 

SEE ALSO: Trump starts day by retweeting conservative commentators who blasted antifa and Obama to defend him on Charlottesville and Arpaio pardon

 

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.