President Trump's relations with Arizona's Republican senators were testy even before Friday, but the president's pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio seems sure to increase the animosity. John McCain and Jeff Flake each criticized Trump's decision about Maricopa County's former ex-lawman. The pardon "undermines (Trump's) claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions," said McCain. Flake, meanwhile, said he would have preferred that Trump "honor the judicial process and let it take its course." Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court for refusing to obey a judge's order to stop patrols that focused on Hispanics as part of Arpaio's crackdown on undocumented immigrants. He had yet to be sentenced but could have faced 6 months in jail.
The White House statement on the pardon cited the 85-year-old's long career in law enforcement and his "life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration," per NPR. Earlier in the week, Trump suggested that Arpaio was convicted for just "doing his job." At the Washington Post, Philip Bump writes that the pardon raises an important question about the president's rationale for issuing them, particularly in the context of the Russia investigation. "If he’s willing to pardon Joe Arpaio for ignoring a court order in service of a political goal Trump embraces, why wouldn’t he pardon another individual he respects for similarly ignoring a demand from the court." (Read more Joe Arpaio stories.)