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Trump defends decision to pardon ex-Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio

Trump defends Arpaio pardon

In a joint news conference with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland on Monday, President Trump defended his decision to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, which he issued Friday evening in the midst of Tropical Storm Harvey. 

The president was questioned about his Friday-evening pardon of the former Maricopa County sheriff.

"A lot of people think it was the right thing to do," the president said when asked about the criticisms of his pardon, which have been leveled by both Democrats and Republicans.

Trump's pardon of Arpaio came shortly after he was advised against the decision by White House lawyers who suggested he wait until after the sheriff was sentenced for contempt.

"He's done a great job for the people of Arizona," Mr. Trump said at the press conference. "He's very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration, he is loved in Arizona."

Mr. Trump said that far from hiding the pardon by issuing it Friday evening, he thought it would get more attention as television viewership was bound to be high due to Harvey's impact. "The ratings would be far higher," he explained. He went on to explain his belief that the Arizona sheriff was treated "unbelievably unfairly," adding that Arpaio is a "great law enforcement person."

In light of his pardon of Arpaio, Mr. Trump then began listing other controversial presidential pardons and commutations from Democratic administrations. 

He read off a list of individuals, including:

  • Susan Rosenberg, a Clinton administration commutation
  • Carlos Vignali, a Clinton administration commutation

"I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe, and I think the people of Arizona who really know him best agree with me," Mr. Trump concluded.

The White House released a statement regarding Arpaio's pardon that states "Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration."

Mr. Trump echoed this sentiment in a tweet he released later that day during Tropical Storm Harvey.

The conference marked the first time Mr. Trump has spoken publicly since Tropical Storm Harvey. He assured "rapid action from Congress" for victims of the storm and recovery efforts.  

"We've pledged our full support as Texas and Louisiana recover from this devastating and historic storm," Mr. Trump said, adding that recovery from Harvey will be "long and difficult." 

During the course of the storm, Mr. Trump sent out multiple tweets, both relating to Harvey and otherwise. On Monday, the president also declared an emergency for Louisiana, which could see up to 25 inches of rainfall in some parts.

Mr. Trump will be visiting Texas Tuesday to assess some of the damage for himself and address the federal response to the natural disaster, which has affected roughly 6.8 million Texas residents and could reach up to $30 billion worth of damage. He said during the press conference that he plans to visit either Louisiana or Texas on Saturday, as well. He wants to be involved in the process of reacting to this natural disaster and of marshalling the resources necessary to provide aid.

Mr. Trump was also asked about his insistence that Mexico would pay for a southern border wall. On Monday, the Mexican government reiterated its refusal to pay for the wall. Mr. Trump has also insisted that the U.S. government pay for the wall and has threatened to shut down the government if it does not fund the wall.

Live updates:

Trump reiterates promise for U.S.-Mexico border wall

"One way or another, Mexico is going to pay for the wall," Mr. Trump said, pointing out that they may do so through reimbursement. Earlier last week, Mr. Trump threatened to shut down the government if building plans for the wall do not receive federal funding.

He added that the wall will "greatly help with the drug problem."

"We are right now negotiating NAFTA" 

Mr. Trump said that the North American Free Trade Agreement will either be negotiated or terminated. He called it "one of the worst trade deals" and said that it is a "one-sided deal" benefitting Canada and Mexico. 

"The FEMA money is relatively small compared to the rebuilding money"

Addressing the effects of Tropical Storm Harvey, Mr. Trump emphasized his belief that Congress will help provide federal relief to the victims of the storm.

Nearly a quarter of Texas's population has been affected by the storm, and estimated costs for rebuilding and recovery could reach up to $30 billion.  

Trump hopes for positive relationship between U.S. and Russia

Mr. Trump said that a positive relationship between the U.S. and Russia would be "good for world peace and other things." 

The two leaders discussed their respective nation's relationship with Russia in a meeting earlier Monday.

Niinistö: "We have to try in all possible ways to solve the situation in Afghanistan"

Niinistö said that he hopes for a peaceable outcome in Afghanistan, pointing out that Finland has been involved in Afghanistan efforts through providing troops and financial aid.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio "has done a great job"

When asked about his pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Mr. Trump defended his decision which was announced during Tropical Storm Harvey. 

The decision has been subject to criticisms on both the left and the right. The controversial pardon prompted Mr. Trump to list multiple names of individuals who received a presidential pardon, including former president Barack Obama's pardon of Chelsea Manning. 

"I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe," Mr. Trump said.

Niinistö: "if we lose the Arctic we lose the globe"

Niinistö pointed out Finland's commitment to fighting the effects of climate change, an issue that the Trump administration does not view as a priority for the United States. 

Mr. Trump added that the two world leaders "had a very good discussion" on the Arctic and black carbon earlier in the day.

Trump: "these are all threats we will be able to handle"

"We are very, very protective of that region," Mr. Trump said of the Baltic states, addressing potential threats in the region from Russia. President Niinistö also expressed hope that Finland can"enhance dialogue between Russia and NATO."

Trump: "rapid action from Congress" expected after Harvey

Mr. Trump said he expects to have funding requests from Congress on his desk "soon" following Tropical Storm Harvey.

"I think you're going to be in fantastic shape, I've already spoken to Congress," Mr. Trump said, calling the storm both "epic" and "historic." 

Mr. Trump added that he does not believe the funds provided for storm relief will affect his ultimate budget goals, which will be addressed when Congress returns from the August recess. 

U.S. seeks "fair and reciprocal" trade with Finland

Mr. Trump praised the shared interests and common values between the United States and Finland. He thanked President Niinistö for meeting with him earlier Tuesday, especially in light of Tropical Storm Harvey. 

Niinistö expressed his hope for a fair blanace between the shared economic goals of the two nations and environmental protection.

Trump pledges federal support to Harvey victims

"We are one American family," Mr. Trump said, striking a tone of unity. He pledged federal support and "cooperation" to both Texas and Louisiana, which are both currently facing a declared state of emergency. 

Trump thanks first responders to Harvey

"We've pledged our full support as Texas and Louisiana recover from this devastating and historic storm," Mr. Trump said, adding that the road to recovery will be "long and difficult." 

Trump to update on Harvey

President Trump will begin the joint press conference momentarily. Officially, two deaths have been confirmed as a result of Tropical Storm Harvey. 

Earlier, in his initial meeting with Niinistö, the president addressed the aftermath of the devastating storm. 

Mr. Trump will visit the flooded grounds of Texas on Tuesday. Saturday, he may return to the state or make a separate trip to Louisiana, where he has also declared a state of emergency as a result of Tropical Storm Harvey. 

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