President Donald Trump defended his decision to pardon the controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Monday, calling him a “patriot”, The Hill reports. Trump also read off a list of past pardons and commutations that presidents have suffered criticism for, including Obama’s pardoning of Chelsea Manning and Oscar Lopez Rivera.
Arpaio was charged with defying a court order telling him to stop racially profiling Latinos, and Trump suggested on Monday that the Obama administration was trying to undermine Arpaio’s reelection campaign for sheriff with the charges.
“He lost in a fairly close election. He would’ve won the election. They just hammered him before the election. I thought that was a very, very unfair thing to do.” Trump said.
Obama reduced the prison sentences of Manning and Rivera. Manning leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, and Rivera was a member of a Puerto Rican nationalist group responsible for bombings, The Hill writes.
Trump also cited President Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich, a former donor, who had fled the country during his prosecution for tax evasion.
Trump was heavily criticized for announcing the pardon late on Friday night as Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas Coast. His response was that he made the announcement at that hour because he knew more people would be watching cable news.
“I assumed the ratings would be far higher than normal with the hurricane just starting,” Trump said.