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President Donald Trump for the past week has been teasing the possibility of pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona law enforcement official who was found guilty of criminal contempt for refusing to stop illegally detaining people who were suspected of being undocumented immigrants.
On Friday night, with much of the country turned to coverage of Hurricane Harvey, Trump made his pronouncement.
I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2017
And the internet, on both sides of the political aisle, immediately went bonkers.
Arpaio called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” and he ingratiated himself to Trump because he was an early supporter of his presidential run and because he sent investigators to Hawaii to look for Barack Obama’s birth certificate. But he used racial profiling in his law enforcement work, and he was found guilty of criminal contempt for ignoring a federal court order to stop illegal profiling.
Arpaio tweeted his thanks to Trump, saying he had been the victim of a political witch hunt “by holdovers in the Obama justice department.” Not many internet users seemed to agree.
With his pardon of Arpaio, President Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing.— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 26, 2017
By pardoning Arpaio, the President has once again sided with division and discrimination. This is a disgrace.— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) August 26, 2017
Sheriff Joe Arpaio once arrested some reporters covering him and subpoenaed the IP addresses of the people who read their stories about him. https://t.co/lmEoG7B5A1— Freedom of the Press (@FreedomofPress) August 26, 2017
The Arpaio pardon is basically a big middle finger to America. A loud, proud declaration that this Administration supports racism.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) August 26, 2017
Trump in one word tonight: #pendejo— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) August 26, 2017
The Republican senators from Arizona, both of whom were heavily criticized by Trump during his Phoenix rally this week, also weighed in, writing they were against the pardon.
Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course.— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) August 26, 2017
And then the Phoenix New Times let loose on this epic tweetstorm.
We've been covering Joe Arpaio for more than 20 years. Here's a couple of things you should know about him... 1/many— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
He ran a jail that he described as a "concentration camp." https://t.co/5MNt2lxOyw— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
Prisoners there died at an alarming rate, often without explanation. https://t.co/wriqDix6EA— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
One of his jailers nearly broke the neck of a paraplegic guy who had the temerity to ask for a catheter. https://t.co/eySbTTJFph— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
One time, as a publicity stunt, he marched Latino prisoners into a segregated area with electric fencing. https://t.co/DYeyFUDhbD— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
He ran an ongoing "mugshot of the day" contest on the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office website. https://t.co/n9hyv0u6Xd— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
He arrested New Times reporters for covering him. We won a $3.75 million settlement for that one. https://t.co/tB97Xtg5ig— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
Under him, the MCSO failed to investigate hundreds of sex abuse cases, many of which involved children.https://t.co/CdsU0p9dZo— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
But he somehow found time and money to send a deputy to Hawaii to look for Barack Obama's birth certificate. https://t.co/lVX595OVmX— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
Oh, and one time he staged an assassination attempt against himself? That was weird. https://t.co/KboxuTwYXe— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
In 2013, a federal judge confirmed what literally everyone in Phoenix knew: he'd been racially profiling Latinos. https://t.co/2uYZLMdnwt— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
So naturally, he hired a PI to investigate the judge and his wife. https://t.co/e7Nf01R7vn— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
He also kept on profiling people, which is why he got charged with contempt of court (and was found to be guilty AF) https://t.co/PycurAtivk— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
He also tried to destroy some of the hard drives containing material that was supposed to be turned over the court. https://t.co/XKgR3SDWXd— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
By 2015, his fondness for racial profiling had cost the county more $44 million. On top of, you know, ruining lives. https://t.co/zlLg6kCsUf— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
So, yeah, that's who Trump just pardoned. You can read all our coverage of Arpaio over the years here: https://t.co/7JkmOEVPWW— PhoenixNewTimes (@phoenixnewtimes) August 26, 2017
Arpaio was scheduled to be sentenced in October, but now that Trump has used his first pardon as president, Arpaio won’t have to worry about facing prison time.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.