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WashPost: Trump Asked AG Jeff Sessions to Drop Joe Arpaio Case

Image: WashPost: Trump Asked AG Jeff Sessions to Drop Joe Arpaio Case

President Donald Trump. Photo by: Chris Kleponis/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

By    |   Saturday, 26 Aug 2017 08:47 PM

President Donald Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions this spring about dropping the federal case against former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio but was "advised that would be inappropriate," The Washington Post reported Saturday.

Trump then decided to let the case, on charges of contempt of court for refusing to stop his crackdown on illegal immigrants, proceed — but "if Arpaio was convicted, he could grant clemency," the Post reported.

The newspaper cited "three people with knowledge of the conversation" between the president and Sessions.

However, Trump planned that if Arpaio was convicted, he would pardon him — with one associate telling the Post that the president was "gung-ho about it."

"We knew the president wanted to do this for some time now and had worked to prepare for whenever the moment may come," one White House official told the newspaper "on the condition of anonymity."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the conversation with Sessions: "It's only natural the president would have a discussion with administration lawyers about legal matters.

"This case would be no different."

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Trump pardoned Arpaio, 85, the former Maricopa County sheriff, after he was found in contempt on July 31 in a trial before a federal court judge.

In announcing his decision, Trump cited Arpaio's advanced age and his law enforcement record, saying on Twitter that he "kept Arizona safe."

Arpaio faced a maximum of six months in federal prison and was scheduled to be sentenced in October.

"I didn’t ask for the pardon," Arpaio told the Post Saturday. "He wanted to do it because I think he understood what I was going through."

Trump's decision was widely slammed by several Republicans, who questioned the president's commitment to the rule of law.

Robert Bauer, a former White House counsel in the Obama administration, told the Post that the pardon was Trump's "back-hand way of doing what he wanted to do at the front end.

"He just wanted to kill the prosecution off," he added. "He couldn’t do it the one way, so he ended up doing it the other way.

"This is just another vivid demonstration of how far removed from an appropriate exercise of the pardon power this was," Bauer said.

The Obama Justice Department filed charges against Arpaio last October, weeks before the November election.

The sheriff, who was seeking a sixth term, lost to little-known Democrat Paul Penzone.

Arpaio told the Post Saturday that Trump called him around Thanksgiving to check on him — and he told the Republican president-elect that his wife, Ava, had cancer.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton convicted Arpaio in July — and he and his lawyer, Mark Goldman, told the Post that they did not contact Trump nor ask anyone else in the White House for a pardon.

But the pardon process soon began inside the White House, the Post reported, supported by senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The White House Counsel’s Office had "quietly begun preparing the paperwork and communications staffers had started drawing up talking points" after Trump retweeted a Fox News story that the president was considering a pardon, the Post reported.

Arpaio then received a call from the White House counsel's office asking whether he would accept a presidential pardon.

He would, Goldman told the Post.

On Tuesday, Trump hinted that he would pardon Trump during a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center.

"I am just curious: Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?" he asked.

The question sparked loud cheers and chants of "pardon Sheriff Joe."

"So, was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?" Trump asked. "He should have had a jury.

"But you know what? I will make a prediction," Trump said. "I think he's going to be just fine, OK?

"But I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy.

"Is that OK? All right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good."

Arpaio told the Post Saturday that he decided against attending the rally because "I didn’t want to cause any harm or riots.

"So, I stayed away, which really hurt me," he said.

However, Goldman wrote a letter to White House Counsel Donald McGahn, according to the Post, after CBS News reported that Trump was being advised against a pardon.

The two-page letter, sent Friday morning, said, in part, that "hopefully this is more fake news," and that a delay until after sentencing "would place Sheriff Arpaio in an untenable and unprecedented position."

Goldman also argued that without a pardon, his client could be "sentenced, handcuffed, given a 'perp walk' and incarcerated" and "left to languish in federal custody," the Post reported.

Then, about 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, another lawyer in his McGahn's office called Goldman's co-counsel, Jack Wilenchik, asking again if Arpaio would accept a pardon.

Minutes later, an email arrived from the White House with a single page attachment, the Post reported: an "Executive Grant of Clemency" for Arpaio signed by Trump and with a golden Department of Justice seal.

Goldman took a copy of the document to Arpaio's house outside Phoenix.

"Of course, his first question was, 'Is this a fake document?'" Goldman told the Post. "We know the sheriff has looked into fake documents."

Trump has not yet talked with Arpaio personally, the former sheriff and Goldman told the Post.

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President Donald Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions this spring about dropping the federal case against former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio but was "advised that would be inappropriate," The Washington Post reported Saturday.
joe arpaio, jeff sessions, trump, sessions, attorney general, donald trump
Saturday, 26 Aug 2017 08:47 PM
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