Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said Friday that President Donald Trump's pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was "a very political act used to kind of close this chapter out."
"It was political prosecution to begin with, so it's not surprising to see a pardon, which is obviously a very political act used to kind of close this chapter out," Cuccinelli, a Republican who is now president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, told John Berman on CNN.
"People will view the pardon based on where they start on Sheriff Arpaio," he said. "The prosecution in 2016 was commenced the day before early voting began in Arizona.
"It was a political prosecution," Cuccinelli said, adding that Arpaio lost re-election to a seventh term in November.
The Justice Department first sued Arpaio for racial profiling in 2012.
The case that ultimately led to the criminal contempt charges was initially filed in 2007 by a Mexican tourist who had been stopped in Maricopa County.
Cuccinelli said did not strongly endorse Trump's pardon, telling Berman that "I am an idealist.
"I wouldn't say I'm jumping up and down for joy.
"I think, on balance, it was a defensible and positive thing for the president to do.
"I hope future presidents, including this president, when he's on his way out, whenever that may be, won't initiate prosecution of people running for office strictly for the purpose of defeating them.
"This why the timing of Sheriff Joe's prosecution was commenced when it was commenced," Cuccinelli added. "It was so he would lose the election. And he did.
"That is not how prosecutions should be commenced.
"It is not how they should be carried forward — and now President Trump has undone it."
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