The necessary legal paperwork is in place for President Trump to pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio should he decide to do so, Fox News has learned.
Trump still has to make a final decision, but administration officials also have developed talking points for surrogates to use should Trump issue his first presidential pardon to spare the former Arizona lawman.
The development comes after Trump signaled during a rally in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday night he could make that call.
“I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine,” Trump said of Arpaio. “But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. Is that OK?”
Arpaio attorney Mark Goldman told Fox News neither he nor the former sheriff has had any contact with the White House or Justice Department.
However, he said, “We very much appreciate President Trump’s comments. Sheriff Arpaio didn’t receive a fair trial and it appears that miscarriage of justice is going to be rectified soon.”
The former Maricopa County sheriff was convicted of a misdemeanor charge for not obeying a 2011 order from a judge to stop his anti-illegal immigrant traffic patrols.
Trump recently told Fox News that he was “seriously considering” a pardon for Arpaio.
“I might do it right away, maybe early this week,” Trump told Fox News on Aug. 13. “I am seriously thinking about it.”
When the president’s campaign announced the Phoenix rally days later, it touched off immediate speculation that the event could be the venue to announce the president’s first pardon.
But the White House made clear earlier Tuesday that Trump would not make any final announcement at that rally.
Arpaio, meanwhile, has been awaiting a decision, while stressing he supports the president regardless.
“I would accept [a pardon], but we’ll see what happens,” Arpaio said. “[I]t doesn’t matter because I’m still going to support him as long as he is the president of the United States because that’s the way I am. I don’t desert for political reasons. I’ll stick with him.”
Arpaio, 85, who served as sheriff in Maricopa County for more than 20 years before losing election in 2016, forged a national reputation for his tough and controversial policies cracking down on illegal immigration. Arpaio’s widely publicized tactics included forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and housing them in desert tent camps.