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Constitutional Expert: Joe Arpaio Pardon Could Spell Trouble For Trump

Ross D. Franklin/AP via Here & Now
Joe Arpaio

The fallout continues from President Donald Trump’s Friday night pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The move has been bipartisanly criticized. A constitutional expert believes President Trump could have helped the former sheriff in a way that would have avoided a lot of controversy and that it may come back to haunt him politically.

Robert McWhirter said Trump could have used a commutation instead of a pardon.

“He could have waited until Joe Arpaio received his sentence, and then he could commuted the sentence to probation or whatever to make sure the former Maricopa County Sheriff never spent any time in jail," McWhirter said.

He said there’s an office of pardons in the Justice Department that usually requires a set of procedures for a pardon. And he believes Arpaio’s hasty reprieve could spell trouble for Trump, possibly ending up as part of articles of impeachment.

“This could be an article for impeachment and the historic precedent for that is the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868 who had violated a statute by firing one of Abraham Lincoln’s former cabinet members," McWhirter said.

Despite a wave of bi-partisan criticism, including from the state’s two GOP U.S. senators, one Republican state senator is defending President Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio.

On CNN Sunday, Steve Montenegro criticized pardons given by President Barack Obama and blamed the left for Arpaio’s conviction.

“We had President Obama pardoning hundreds of thugs and the best the left can come up with after they do a political persecution on him is a misdemeanor, who even then I don’t think, I don’t believe was done correctly through the legal process," Montenegro said. 

Montenegro also said Arpaio should have had a jury trial.