UPDATE — 5:17 p.m. EDT: Former Phoenix area Sheriff Joe Arpaio told the Washington Examiner on Monday he is considering a run for political office in some capacity after being pardoned by President Trump late last week.
“I could run for mayor, I could run for legislator, I could run for Senate,” he said. “I’m sure getting a lot of people around the state asking me” to run against incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake.
“With what I’ve seen happening in recent months, especially what’s happening with our president, I said, ‘Hey, why not?”
Flake, whose Senate terms expires at the end of 2018, is being challenged for the Republican nomination by Trump-allied Dr. Kelli Ward, a West Virginia native.
In his first pardon since taking office in January, President Trump granted absolution to former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Praising Arpaio for a lifetime of public service of “protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” a White House statement on the matter read:
“Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
Announcing the pardon Friday evening, Trump tweeted:
I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2017
Arpaio, a long-time top law enforcement official in Phoenix and early supporter of Trump’s presidential bid, was convicted in July of misdemeanor criminal contempt for defying a court order instructing his office to stop targeting suspected illegal immigrants during a crackdown on border crossings in 2011.
The former sheriff was believed to face little or no jail time, with the outside chance of serving up to six months for his conviction.
Despite earning gratitude from Arpaio, the pardon garnered mixed reviews, with several GOP lawmakers criticizing clemency for the former sheriff and a report by the Washington Post that Trump had requested Attorney General Sessions drop federal charges against the former sheriff.
Both Arizona senators, John McCain, a frequent Trump critic, and Jeff Flake, whose expected primary opponent, Dr. Kelli Ward, has earned an endorsement from the president, criticized the pardon.
Along with McCain and Flake, House Speaker Paul Ryan rebuked the president:
“The speaker does not agree with the decision. Law-enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon,” Ryan spokesman Doug Andres said.
Arpaio, a Massachusetts native, served 24 years as Maricopa County sheriff and was defeated for reelection in November 2016.
[AP via CNBC] [NPR] [The Hill] [BBC] [Photo courtesy AP via Huffington Post]