World

Republicans rebuke Trump for ex-sheriff pardon

WASHINGTON US President Donald Trump asked Attorney-General Jeff Sessions about dropping a criminal case against controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has since received a pardon, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Mr Trump was advised that closing the criminal contempt case against Mr Arpaio - who was convicted for ignoring a court order to stop detaining illegal migrants - would be inappropriate, said the Post, citing three sources with knowledge of the conversation.

Mr Trump had said he would pardon Mr Arpaio if necessary. One source said Mr Trump was "gung-ho" about the idea, the Post said.

He has received pushback on the pardon from members of his party - most recently from the top Republican in Congress, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

"The speaker does not agree with this decision," his spokesman Doug Andres said in a statement on Saturday. "Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon."

Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake had earlier criticised the presidential pardon as well.

Mr Trump's reported chat with Mr Sessions over Mr Arpaio stands as evidence of the inability - or unwillingness - of the 71-year-old to maintain the traditional distance between the White House and the Justice Department on specific cases.

It bears similarities to his alleged bid to influence the inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and his bid to persuade officials to downplay possibile collusion between his election campaign team and Russia. - AFP

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