WASHINGTON — President Trump defended his pardon of Joe Arpaio on Monday, reciting a litany of controversial clemency actions by his predecessors and declaring the former sheriff a national hero.
"Sheriff Joe is a patriot, Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders, and Sheriff Joe was very, very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election — an election he would have won," Trump said.
Trump's comments came in a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Monday, three days after his first pardon was announced late Friday, when the Trump was at the presidential retreat at Camp David.
Trump denied that he was trying to bury the news of the pardon in a Friday night news dump as Hurricane Harvey was making landfall. "I assumed that the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally," he said.
Trump came to the press conference armed with a list of notorious uses of the presidential clemency power by his predecessors:
► Marc Rich, a fugitive financier accused of evading sanctions against Iran during the hostage crisis. President Clinton pardoned Rich on his last day in the White House, after Rich's wife gave $450,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
► Susan Rosenberg, a member of the leftist terrorist group known as the Weather Underground convicted of possession of explosives and accused of an armored car robbery that left two security guards and a police officer dead. Clinton commuted her sentence.
► Carlos Viglani, a cocaine trafficker whose father had contributed to Democratic campaigns. Clinton commuted his sentence.
► Oscar Rivera Lopez, a Puerto Rican nationalist convicted in a series of bomb attacks. Clinton had commuted the sentences of his co-conspirators, but Lopez held out until Obama commuted his sentence this year.
► Chelsea Manning, a transgender Army private convicted of espionage for leaking classified information to Wikileaks while still known as Bradley Manning. President Obama shortened her sentence. "A horrible thing he did," Trump said.
Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff, was convicted last month of criminal contempt of court. The Obama administration brought the case to enforce a federal court order prohibiting Arpaio from detaining people solely for suspected immigration violations.
Arpaio had argued that he didn't understand the order. His sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 5.
The Arpaio pardon was the first act of executive clemency in Trump's presidency. Under his constitutional pardon power, he could have shortened any fine or sentence Arpaio would have received, given him a temporary reprieve, or a conditional pardon. Trump chose the most muscular form of his clemency power: a "full and unconditional pardon."