By Caroline Kenny, CNN
(CNN) — House Speaker Paul Ryan disagrees with President Donald Trump’s decision Friday to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, his spokesman said Saturday.
“The Speaker does not agree with this decision,” spokesman Doug Andres said in a statement. “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.”
Trump pardoned the former Arizona sheriff Friday night of his conviction last month on charges of criminal contempt for violating a court order in a racial-profiling case. Arpaio was scheduled to be sentenced in October.
Arpaio’s lawyer, Jack Wilenchik, told CNN that Ryan was wrong about the pardon, “and this is why when politics tries to mix with the courts, it’s very tough. But at the end of the day here, the President did the right thing, because there should have been a jury in this case. We should have had one from day one, and at this point the appeal — in fact the sheriff is an old man, can’t forget that, he’s 85 years old. And this would be a lot more money and wasted time all around. So I would have rather seen this go to jury in the first place, and get the right verdict. But at this point, we’re dealing with a wrongful verdict.”
Arpaio, a longtime Trump supporter, was sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, until last year, when he lost his reelection bid to Democrat Paul Penzone. He thanked Trump in an interview with CNN affiliate KTVK and KPHO in Phoenix on Saturday.
“He’s a big supporter of law enforcement,” Arpaio said. “I know it came from his heart. Two years ago, I supported him for his rally, and I always said, regardless of pardon or no pardon, I’ll be with him until the end, and I say that. So I’m really happy with all of the support I receive across the nation, Arizona, for this pardon, and I’ll have more to speak out and let the true story come out about abuse of the judicial system and politics.”
However, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Arizona’s two Republican senators, criticized Trump’s decision.
Sen. John McCain said in a statement on the pardon that “no one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold.”
“Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders,” McCain said. “The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”
Sen. Jeff Flake tweeted Friday night: “Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Saturday that the pardon displays “flagrant disregard for the rule of law in this country.”
Ryan’s choice to break with the President over the pardon could add to mounting friction between the two leaders.
Earlier this week, Trump criticized Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not advancing a bill to raise the debt ceiling and in recent weeks has harped on McConnell for the failure of the Senate to repeal parts of Obamacare.