President Trump is holding a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday night, and he mentioned on Fox News last week that he's "seriously considering" a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff recently convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a federal judge's racial-profiling order before Arizona voters declined to re-elect him last year. If Trump plans to announce the pardon at the Phoenix rally, as widely believed plausible, he won't have gone through the normal channel for presidential pardons, CNN reports, citing a source familiar with that process.
Usually, a petitioner for a presidential pardon, serving time for a federal offense, submits a request to the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney, who reviews the application and gives a recommendation to the deputy attorney general, who makes his or her own recommendation to the president. Trump does not have to follow this process, and there is some precedent for a president pardoning a controversial ally without going through the Justice Department, as former President George W. Bush did when he commuted Scooter Libby's sentence in 2007.
Arpaio told The New York Times last weekend that he has not spoken with Trump since November, was "honored by the potential pardon," and would accept it if offered. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked Trump last week to postpone the rally, especially if he plans to pardon Arpaio, saying such an announcement at a raucous rally would just "enflame emotions and further divide our nation" after Charlottesville. On Monday, Stanton and other Phoenix officials said they will do their best to balance the risks of clashes against public safety and everyone's First Amendment rights. You can watch their comments and footage of early protests below. Peter Weber