(WB) Amid criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike over his pardon of Joe Arpaio, President Trump on Monday invoked his predecessor’s clemency for Chelsea Manning to justify the decision.
Trump made the comparison at the White House during a joint news conference with Finland President Sauli Niinistö in response to a question about the criticism from Fox News’ John Roberts — deriding her as a “criminal leaker.”
“President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who leaked countless sensitive and classified documents to Wikileaks, perhaps, and others, but horrible, horrible thing that he did,” Trump said. “Commuted the sentence and perhaps pardoned.”
Trump apparently misgendered Manning as male by referencing the “horrible, horrible thing that he did,” although arguably that pronoun could be a reference to Obama and the horrible thing was the pardon of Manning.
One difference between Arpaio and Manning, a transgender woman who served nearly seven years in a men’s prison before receiving commutation from Obama, is Manning served time in prison. Arpaio had yet to be sentenced when Trump pardoned him.
Arpaio, who served as Maricopa County Sheriff until last year before being voted out of office, was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for engaging in racial profiling despite an order instructing him to cease that activity. The U.S. Justice Department under the Obama administration found he unfairly targeted Latinos in conducting traffic stops — although Arpaio long before that had been accused of police misconduct.
Manning is also a controversial figure, but in a different way. Many consider her a whistleblower for leaking a video of a Baghdad airstrike that exposed U.S. activities during the Iraq war. Others point to a subsequent dump of 251,287 State Department cables as evidence she was indiscriminately leaking information and potentially jeopardized the lives of undercover operatives.
Trump also invoked to justify his Arpaio pardon former President Clinton’s pardon of Mark Rich, who received clemency after his wife donated to the Clinton Library, Susan Rosenberg and Carlos Vignali as well as Obama’s pardon of Oscar Lopez Rivera, a militant leader of the Puerto Rico independence movement.
Trump also had high praise for Arpaio, who supported the president in the 2016 election and stumped for him at the Republican National Convention.
“Sheriff Joe is a patriot, Sheriff Joe loves our country, Sheriff Joe protected our borders and Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won, and he was elected many times,” Trump said.
In response to assertions from Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush the pardon was the wrong thing to do, Trump replied, “A lot of people think it was the right thing to do.”
Trump also acknowledged he issued the pardon at the same time Hurricane Harvey was striking Texas, referencing the high ratings he assumed TV would have at the time.
“And actually, in the middle of the hurricane, even though it was a Friday, I assumed the ratings would be far higher, and I put it out that I pardon, as we say, Sheriff Joe,” Trump said.
“He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona,” Trump continued. “He’s very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration. He is loved in Arizona. I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly when they came down with their big decision to go get him right before the election voting started, as you know, and he lost in fairly close election.”
Referencing a rally he recently held in Phoenix in which he said relief for Arpaio was forthcoming, Trump said, “When I mentioned him the other night. You saw the massive crowd we had. The people went crazy when I said what do you think of Sheriff Joe, or something to that effect. The crazy went absolutely crazy when I was in Arizona last week.”
Manning, who didn’t respond on Twitter when Trump criticized her earlier this year, also has not responded as of the time of this posting to Trump comparing her to Arpaio.
— Chris Johnson, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.