Trump criticised for pardoning controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio

Mr Arpaio had been found guilty of criminal contempt after defying a court order to stop traffic patrols targeting immigrants

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined onstage by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (L) at a campaign rally in Marshalltown, Iowa January 26, 2016, after Arpaio endorsed Trump's cacndidacy.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo
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US President Donald Trump has been criticised by members of Congress after he pardoned controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Mr Arpaio, 85, was found guilty of criminal contempt after he defied a court order to stop traffic patrols which targeted immigrants.

The ex-Arizona sheriff had been a prominent supporter of Mr Trump during his 2016 presidential election campaign.

Mr Arpaio, who had been due to be sentenced in October, thanked Mr Trump, 71, on Twitter, blaming the Obama administration for his conviction.


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“Thank you @realdonaldtrump for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!” he wrote.

Mr Trump gave the pardon on Friday evening, just as Hurricane Harvey was about to hit the Texas Gulf Coast.

His decision was met with anger by Democrats and some Republicans, who accused him of undermining the rule of law.

Democratic congressman Mark Pocan wrote on Twitter: “Outrageous and completely unacceptable. @realDonaldTrump just embraced white supremacy at an entirely new level.”

While Republican senator John McCain, a vocal critic of the Trump administration, said the president had shown “contempt for the rule of law” in pardoning Arpaio.

In a statement announcing the pardon, Mr Trump praised the Mr Arpaio’s “50 years of admirable service to our nation”.

Mr Trump said: "Arpaio's life and career, which began at the age of 18 when he enlisted in the military after the outbreak of the Korean War, exemplify selfless public service.

"Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.

"Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is a worthy candidate for a presidential pardon."