President Trump's intervention in Joe Arpaio's fate dates back well before he announced the controversial pardon of the former Arizona sheriff on Friday, reports the Washington Post. Citing White House sources, the Post reports that Trump reached out to AG Jeff Sessions this past spring to see if the government could drop the criminal case against Arpaio, but "was advised that would be inappropriate." Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed Trump's inquiry, calling it "only natural the president would have a discussion with administration lawyers about legal matters." Trump acquiesced, but planned to issue the pardon in the event of a conviction, which came at the end of July. "We knew the president wanted to do this for some time now," one White House staffer tells the Post. Another adviser tells Politico it wasn't a "matter of if he was going to do it, it was a matter of when."
Despite his earlier inquiry, Trump issued the pardon without telling the Justice Department, which had no comment; Politico characterizes top officials there as surprised by the move. A former Obama counsel calls it "his backhand way of doing what he wanted to do at the front end," and a "vivid demonstration of how far removed from an appropriate exercise of the pardon power this was." Republicans including Arizona's senators have condemned the pardon, and Paul Ryan has joined their number, reports Politico, saying via a rep that he "does not agree with the decision." As for Arpaio himself, whom the Post characterizes as Trump's brother in arms in birtherism, "I didn't ask for the pardon," he says. "He wanted to do it because I think he understood what I was going through."