PHOENIX — When the White House announced Tuesday that, despite the rumors, President Trump wouldn’t pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the embattled law enforcement official interpreted the comments in his own way.
“He didn’t say he’s not going to do it,” Arpaio told VICE News in a phone interview. “He said, ‘tonight,’” Arpaio added, referring to Trump’s campaign rally Tuesday night in Phoenix.
On Air Force One en route to Arizona, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders finally commented on the rumored pardon of Arpaio, who now has a criminal conviction on his record related to his aggressive immigration raids as sheriff. “There will be no discussion of that today at any point, and no action will be taken on that front at any point today,” Sanders said.
Arpaio said the first he had heard of the decision was when VICE News called him to ask about it.
“That doesn’t surprise a lot of people either, does it?” Arpaio asked. He added that he and the president had never talked about a pardon and the last time the two had spoken was “a while back.” Rumors started swirling, however, after Fox & Friends reported that Trump had said he was “seriously considering” pardoning Arpaio. The president even retweeted the story.
Arpaio didn’t answer questions about whether he was disappointed in the White House’s decision or whether or not he hopes Trump issues the pardon in the future. Instead, Arpaio reiterated his support for the man he endorsed for president before most elected Republicans.
“You know, it’s his decision. I never asked him,” Arpaio said. “I welcomed the pardon [talk.] We’ll see what happens.”
Arpaio and Trump share a common rhetoric about undocumented immigrants and, in Arizona, a political base of passionate ultra-conservatives. Arpaio has campaigned for Trump before, but he said he won’t be at the rally tonight. (He said he wasn’t invited.) But his support for Trump has not changed.
Whatever happens with a pardon, Arpaio said, “it’s not going to change my opinion of him [Trump] that’s for sure.”