President Trump’s Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert characterized his boss’ controversial pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio as a normal part of the president’s job.
‘I think the Arpaio pardon is pretty straightforward,’ Bossert told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday during an appearance on This Week.
With Hurricane Harvey still dumping water on Houston and other parts of the Texas coast putting millions of people in danger, Bossert said he believed most Americans were focused on something else.
‘So, my guess is that not too many people care about this one guy right now,’ Bossert said.
Thomas Bossert, President Trump’s homeland security adviser, said Sunday that the president’s Friday night pardon of Joe Arpaio was ‘pretty straightforward’
ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos wanted Tom Bossert’s reaction to criticism of the pardon from former Vice President Joe Biden and Republicans on Capitol Hill
But it was Trump’s timing – conducting a Friday evening news dump that included the Arpaio pardon amid a hurricane – that kicked off the criticism.
Since then, Republicans, including both of Arpaio’s home state’s senators, Arizonans Jeff Flake and John McCain, along with House Speaker Paul Ryan, as well as Democrats like Joe Biden, who wrote a strongly-worded anti-Trump piece in the Atlantic, have attacked Trump’s decision to pardon the former sheriff.
Arpaio had been convicted for defying a judge’s order to halt the racial profiling of Latinos in his Phoenix district and faced a maximum sentence of six months in prison.
Biden, in his piece for the Atlantic, said, ‘Now [Trump’s] pardoned a law-enforcement official who terrorized the Latino community, violated its constitutional rights, defied a federal court order to stop, and ran a prison system so rife with torture and abuse he himself called in a “concentration camp.'”
Stephanopoulos read that passage to Bossert and asked him to respond.
‘Well, Vice President Biden is both loved and known for his hyperbole,’ Bossert said. ‘I think that’s another example of it.’
‘I think it’s pretty straightforward what the president did,’ he continued. ‘I think there is some disproportionate coverage of it right now as I remain focused on the, as Governor Abbott focuses on the 4.6 million people in the greater Houston area,’ Bossert said, name-dropping Texas’ governor and trying to pivot the conversation back to the massive flood.
Bossert also characterized the criticism of the pardon as a presidential rite of passage.
‘And George, as you know, the president you worked for and just about every modern president ends up with some controversial pardons,’ Bossert said. ‘But I think the president has been pretty clear on it. And I certainly don’t think it’s fair to characterize him as not caring about the rule of law.’
Bossert was alluding to President Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, a wealthy friend of the Clintons, who the president pardoned on his last day in office after going through the official process.
Clinton’s move was widely panned.
Trump’s pardon of Arpaio didn’t go through the official channels, which includes seven layers of review and an FBI background check, according to USA Today.
Because of this, Trump’s move disturbed a number of Republicans in Congress.
Bossert argued that the pardon wasn’t something ‘that is going to threaten our constitutional order.’
‘He called him a patriot who kept us safe, also praised his admirable service,’ Stephanopoulos then pointed out. ‘This is a man who held inmates in brutal conditions, humiliated them, promoted the birther lie about President Obama – how is that admirable service?’ the ABC newsman asked.
Bossert replied that he was more focused on the 4.6 million people in the Houston area, in jeopardy from the flooding, than the details of the Arpaio case.
And said he didn’t think too many people cared about ‘this one guy.’
Stephanopoulos tried one more time, pointing out that Arpaio’s actions ‘come within the realm of homeland security,’ Bossert’s specialty, adding that the sheriff has shown no remorse for his actions, which is generally something that has to happen for an individual to receive a pardon.
‘I think there’s a clemency argument that can be made for the long history of service both in the United States military and in law enforcement for the sheriff,’ Bossert answered.
‘I think the president’s been pretty clear, it’s pretty straightforward that he believes that that long history of service merits this clemency and he’s acted accordingly,’ he continued.
‘And so I suspect that what you’re doing is disagreeing with that,’ the homeland security adviser added. ‘And I understand that disagreement and I respect it.’
Stephanopoulos said that’s not what he was trying to do.
‘I’m asking whether or not you agree with it,’ he said and moved on.