White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested Thursday that if President Trump were to pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he’d go through the full Justice Department vetting process — a process that typically takes many months, and even years.
“I would imagine they’d go through the thorough and standard process and when we have an announcement on what that decision is, after that’s completed, we’ll let you know,” she said when at the White House press briefing.
Trump first floated the idea earlier this month of pardoning Arpaio, who in July was found guilty of criminal contempt of court. Trump stopped short of announcing an official pardon of Arpaio at his rally this week in Phoenix; however, he did hint a pardon was on the table.
“You know what, I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine,” Trump said. “OK? But I won’t do it tonight, because I don’t want to cause any controversy.”
The President, technically and legally, does not need to go through the DOJ process to pardon Arpaio — Trump could pardon him in a tweet, some pardon experts have said — and there have been examples of pardons in the past that have been granted outside the normal DOJ process. The vast majority of pardons however are granted after a thorough DOJ review process that includes an FBI background check and a recommendation to the White House whether or not the pardon should be granted. When the DOJ reviews a pardon request, the White House is not obligated to follow its recommendation.
Arpaio was ruled to be in contempt of court for violating a court order to cease racially discriminatory policing of people he suspected to be undocumented immigrants.
According to a CBS News report Wednesday, there has been an internal White House debate over whether to pardon Arpaio, with some advisers pushing Trump to hold off on the pardon until after Arpaio is officially sentenced, in case his sentence is lenient, and because the advisers think that the court order he’s charged with violating was unconstitutional.
Arpaio’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 5.