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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Trump Asked Top Aides Months Ago if Arpaio Case Could Be Dropped, Officials Say - The New York Times

"Months before President Trump issued his Friday-night pardon of Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff, the president asked his attorney general and White House counsel whether the case could be dropped altogether, according to four administration officials familiar with the discussion.

During a wide-ranging meeting, the officials said, Mr. Trump asked both Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, what the options were for helping Mr. Arpaio, a longtime supporter who had been charged with defying a court order directing him to stop detaining people solely on the suspicion that they were undocumented immigrants.

Mr. McGahn and Mr. Sessions both promptly told the president that the case could not be dropped and the charges wiped away, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about Mr. Trump’s private conversations. Mr. Trump then asked about other options, including his power to pardon Mr. Arpaio if he was convicted. He was told he had broad pardon powers, and was satisfied with that answer, the officials said. Mr. Arpaio was ultimately convicted last month, and Mr. Trump pardoned him before he was sentenced.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, appeared to acknowledge that a conversation had taken place, saying in a statement: “It’s only natural the president would have a discussion with administration lawyers about legal matters. This case would be no different.” A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment about the exchange, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has often been indifferent to the notion of separation of powers: He has railed against a congressional leader over an inquiry into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian officials, and he has said he dismissed the head of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, over his handling of a related investigation.

But his pardon of Mr. Arpaio, 85, who became a lightning rod for controversy over his anti-immigrant views and accusations that he racially profiled Latinos, has prompted a fresh round of criticism, even from one of the top members of his own party.

On Saturday, the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, called the pardon an abuse of power that sent a dangerous signal.

Mr. Ryan “does not agree with this decision,” a spokesman, Doug Andres, said in a statement. “Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”

Mr. Trump ran on a message of curtailing immigration, and his message dovetailed with Mr. Arpaio’s. Republicans who were caught by surprise by Mr. Trump’s victory have been grappling with how to stand up against racism while making sure they do not alienate the older, whiter demographic of the party’s base.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said that the president’s pardon “undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law, as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his action.” The state’s other Republican senator, Jeff Flake, who has been attacked by Mr. Trump and who is facing a primary challenge, was more muted.

“Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course,” Mr. Flake wrote on Twitter."

Trump Asked Top Aides Months Ago if Arpaio Case Could Be Dropped, Officials Say - The New York Times

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