Attorney general had warned Trump against controversial pardon
Although he was acting well within presidential powers, his predecessors have waited until the end of their terms before granting pardons and generally only after formal requests for clemency have been made following years of remorse from the recipient.
In his 23 years as the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio became known for his aggressive stance on undocumented immigrants. In 2011, a judge nominated to the bench by former President George W Bush ordered Arpaio to stop his immigration patrols focused on Latinos solely on suspicion they were illegal immigrants but he refused.
He faced up to six months in jail after being found guilty of contempt of court.
Mr Trump hailed him as an “American patriot” as he announced the pardon. It will have delighted a political base that voted for tougher controls on immigration, but it brought an immediate backlash from senior Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, who heads the party in the House of Representatives.
“Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States,” said his spokesman. “We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”
The overall profiling case against Arpaio and his office has already cost taxpayers $66m on items such as legal fees, officer training and an alert system to spot problematic behaviour by sheriff’s deputies. Over the next year, it will cost an additional $26m, largely for adding officers to the effort to comply with a court-ordered overhaul of the agency.
The financial toll is expected to continue until the sheriff’s office comes in full compliance for three straight years with court-ordered changes. The sheriff’s office was deemed 40pc compliant in the first phase of the overhaul and 58pc compliant in its second phase, according to the latest report measuring the agency’s progress.
Taxpayers have footed another $82m in judgments, settlements and legal fees for the sheriff’s office, covering issues such as lawsuits over deaths in his jails and the lawman’s failed investigations of political enemies. That tally includes $3.5m paid to a family of a developmentally disabled girl who was molested while Arpaio’s office did not investigate her abuser.
“Joe Arpaio received a pardon yesterday,” said Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, a long-time Arpaio critic. “The taxpayers did not receive a pardon.”
While Arpaio had long defied predictions of his political demise, the costs of the profiling case and the criminal case against the Republican sheriff are believed to have contributed to his loss in November to Democrat Paul Penzone, a little-known retired Phoenix police sergeant.
Meanwhile, the fallout from Mr Trump’s handling of Charlottesville – where white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters – continues.
Appearing on ‘Fox News Sunday’, Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, was asked whether Mr Trump’s values were in line with American ones.
“The president speaks for himself,” said Mr Tillerson, in comments that will do nothing to dispel a growing sense of a rift in the White House. (© Daily Telegraph, London)