President Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to drop the charges of criminal contempt of court against Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Arizona sheriff, before his case could reach a verdict, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported independently Saturday, citing unnamed White House sources. Sessions and Donald F. McGahn, the White House counsel, both advised Trump his request could not be granted, though he could exercise his pardon power.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump's conversation with Sessions in comments to the Post. "It's only natural the president would have a discussion with administration lawyers about legal matters," she said. "This case would be no different."
Known for his hard-line immigration policy and mistreatment of prisoners, Arpaio was a staunch Trump campaign ally whose ties to the president date to the "birther" movement questioning former President Obama's legitimacy in office. Trump's Friday pardon of the former sheriff after his conviction but before his sentencing has attracted broad, bipartisan critique.
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