WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of President Trump’s most loyal and most polarizing supporters, is “very unlikely” to be included in Trump’s campaign-style rally in Phoenix tonight, nor is he likely to receive word of a pardon during the event, according to a person familiar with the planning efforts.
The person, who requested anonymity to discuss the internal decision-making process, said a final decision has not been made, but that event organizers fear an appearance by Arpaio could cause an unnecessary distraction.
Since Trump announced the rally last week — part of his first trip to the West as president — Arpaio’s potential appearance has been the subject of speculation. He had introduced Trump in his home state during the campaign, ridden in his plane and formed what Arpaio described as a warm relationship.
Even if organizers do not plan for Trump to announce a pardon, Trump is known for going off script and may very well decide to talk extemporaneously about the possibility of one.
Arpaio said in a phone interview Monday that he did not know whether he would be invited to the event as a dignitary.
“If you hear anything, will you let me know?” Arpaio said.
He said he would not show up without an invitation.
“I don’t think I’ll be in the crowd these days,” he said. “I don’t want to cause any havoc, if you know what I mean.”
Trump told a Fox News contributor last week that he was considering a pardon for Arpaio, whose immigration enforcement tactics drew legal and political scrutiny long before Trump’s rise in politics.
Arpaio was recently found guilty of contempt of court for defying a judge’s order to stop racial profiling of Latinos and turning detainees over to federal immigration officials during his tenure in office.
Arpaio said he had not spoken with the president since before Trump took office. Trump called Arpaio’s wife before the inauguration to check on her health, he said. She has been battling cancer and Arpaio said Trump has checked in on her four or five times.
He said he does not know whether Trump will pardon him for what he calls “a miscarriage of justice.”
“I know that he’s sure got a good case to do that,” Arpaio said. “I don’t know what he’s thinking.”
Arpaio is due to be sentenced in October.