Former Arizona Attorney General: Arpaio pardon unfortunate, but predictable

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Critics believe the pardon was too politically motivated.

President Donald Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio is legal, but circumvents the legal process, says former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods.

Woods believes the timing of the pardon – after conviction but before sentencing – undermines due process of the law. Typically, presidential pardons are issued after the legal process runs its course.

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court last July, but issued a pardon by the president in August, before Arpaio had the opportunity to appeal the conviction.

“Generally you would have due process,” said Woods. “You have your right to your day in court, he had his day in court. He lost.”

Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," what's next for DACA recipients in Arizona as the deportation program is set to expire Joe Arpaio is pardoned before he's sentenced but he wants more. And summer connects nature with kids in the middle of the city. Those stories and more on "Arizona horizon."

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I’m Ted Simons. Fred pierce is threatening to sue over instate tuition to DACA students. Pearce says the policy is damaging the nation and destroying the rule of law. He believes the policy is against state law and plans to ask the Supreme Court to uphold the decision but says he doesn't intend to score cheap political points over the issue. Reaction over the Trump administration's attempt to end the program. Andy Biggs says, I applaud and appropriate return the debate to congress. I hope they'll return our borders, and eliminate the incentives is for future illegal immigration. For more on yesterday's decision to end DACA and the exact on those protected by the program, we welcome tony, director of promise Arizona a community organization and state senator John Kavanagh. Good to have you both here. Let's start with your thoughts on yesterday's move by the Trump administration?

Rep. Tony Navarrete: I think the initial reaction of mine, and the community, this is an unfortunate move by this administration. Prior to the decision, I was in front of the ice building with faith leaders from different religions praying that the president would not act and use the young people as political pawns. We are talking about 800,000 dreamers contributing to the country, to the state of Arizona. We have to do something and find a comprehensive solution, yes, however, taking away DACA and manufacturing a crisis around them is not the solution.

Ted Simons: Your reaction to yesterday's move?

Sen. John Kavanagh: President Trump was correct. He did the only thing he could do. He campaigned to end DACA and he won the election. More importantly, DACA is unconstitutional. It's an executive order that creates policy. Policy has to come from congress. Executive enforces the law, congress makes the law. President Trump took the oath we all did to uphold the law. It's unconstitutional.

Ted Simons: The attorney general said the same thing, it's unconstitutional and the rule of law must be followed.

Rep. Tony Navarrete: Their statement or message to say this is unconstitutional just on this topic doesn't make sense especially when you have an individual like Joe Arpaio pardoned practicing practices that are unconstitutional. That logic doesn't make sense. At the end of the day, we have been waiting for congress to address the issue of 11,000,000 in the country undocumented and we have not seen congress act. Not since the bush administration, not the Obama administration. I hope to get that done but you don't do that by pulling the rug from hundreds of thousands on DACA.

Sen. John Kavanagh: DACA is unconstitutional. A parallel program for their parents was put on hold by the Supreme Court. My anti-immigration feelings are strong. Ico sponsored 1070 however throughout the entire controversy, I carved out and differed on DACA. I thought those kids that came at a young age, didn't break the law should be legalized, but the right way, through congress, not by the President Trump making edicts. If President Trump made laws he couldn't get through congress by edicts, democrats would scream.

Rep. Tony Navarrete: There were institutional scholars that said the president had authority to move forward with the program. Sb1070, the law was declared unconstitutional and still to this day we suffer in terms of revenue to the state.

Sen. John Kavanagh: Major positions of sb1070 was ruled totally constitutional by the U.S. Supreme court as sanctuary cities.

Ted Simons: Much of 1070 didn't pass court muster. Some did, some didn't. McCain said that this is the wrong way to approach immigration policy. The kids were brought here through no fault of their own. They shouldn't be punished. They'll be punished if congress doesn't do anything.

Sen. John Kavanagh: If President Obama didn't do the this, a lawsuit to be filed by a dozen governors on Tuesday, would have been filed and you would have had DACA and no congressional issues and there is a probability that it would have ended DACA no warning. President Trump gave six months for congress to pass a bill, do it the right way.

Rep. Tony Navarrete: By that same token, you are manufacturing a crisis. If the states are going to sue the federal government, let them sue the federal government. We know states like Tennessee backed away from that lawsuit and others have backed away from the lawsuit. I had a conversation with faith leaders. This decision by the president to take away DACA is inappropriate. It's cruel and at the end of the day, it doesn't solve the issue. I agree with you until we have congressional legislation to target the issue of the 11,000,000 undocumented, we are not going to have comprehensive solutions.

Sen. John Kavanagh: The 11,000,000 are a different area I’m not sympathetic too. Do you think it's appropriate for a president to legalize 800,000 people when congress over a decade continuously dealt with that and could not pass that legislation. Is it right for a president to do by edict what congress tried and rejected. That's not democracy.

Rep. Tony Navarrete: Hundreds of scholars agreed with the president's authority to move forward with this executive action. He wasn't going to move over with executive action if it didn't pass. It hasn't been challenged yet and it's not going to be challenged because the president decided to take DACA away. If congress is not acting, I expect the president to act.

Ted Simons: Back to Joe Arpaio, how do you square a presidential pardon for Arpaio and no pardon for these kids?

Sen. John Kavanagh: It's apples and oranges. The president engaging in unconstitutional legislative action.

Ted Simons: The kids, not the president's actions, the young people.

Sen. John Kavanagh: The argument for DACA is that it's prosecutorial discretion. It's been on a case-by-case basis, not 800,000 people in one fell swoop. In addition, it's not legislating because all it does, it says we will not arrest and prosecute you. It doesn't bestow benefits. DACA said you will not be deported, gave them official I.D. And work permits.

Ted Simons: We are running out of time. Last word?

Rep. Tony Navarrete: Congress has the responsibility of legislating immigration as to whether someone has citizenship or not. DACA does not provide citizenship or legalization. It is a deferment from deportation. The young people over the next ten years would have contributed $160 billion for the country.

Sen. John Kavanagh: It's i.d. And work permit, immigration law. Congress passes laws, presidents enforce the laws.

Ted Simons: That's the last word. Good to have you both here. Coming up next, the presidential pardon of Joe Arpaio is not quite good enough for Joe Arpaio. We'll explain.

Ted Simons: President trump's controversial pardon of Joe Arpaio means the sheriff will not spend time for his conviction, but with the pardon the conviction stands now for now. We are sorting a case that's not over yet. What's going on here?

Grant Woods: These things don't happen everyday. Judge Bolton, a fantastic judge as are all of our judges in Phoenix. She wants to hear from the lawyers to say how do we finish this up. I don't think much will come from it. A pardon is a pardon. Arpaio's attorneys want this vacated. Will that happen?

Grant Woods: I would think so. The president has the authority to pardon people. I think it's outrageous that he did it, but once it's done, it's done.

Ted Simons: Why would the judge not vacate?

Grant Woods: I'm not sure. The government will have to come up with reasons for her, but I would think she would.

Ted Simons: Arpaio said derogatory and slanderous saying he was convicted of racial profiling. Says it's hurtful to him. People think he was accused of racial profiling. What do you make of that?

Grant Woods: I think he ought not to have his feelings hurt so easily. When you do racist things, when you promote policies and encourage your deputies to carry out policies in violation of court orders that are -- that are bigoted at their base, people will say, yeah, you are racist. Is he racist? It doesn't really matter. The point is, he was having his deputies pull people over because of the color of their skin. If they were brown skinned, those are the people that were profiled. He was told not to do it. Apparently he can't read well or maybe he doesn't care, doesn't believe in the rule of law. Maybe none of them believe in the rule of law unless it's to their advantage.

Ted Simons: I know you are not a pardon expert.

Grant Woods: I didn't not go to law school like representative Kavanagh. I don't know if I could be an expert like him.

Ted Simons: Got a shot there. The idea that the pardon conflicts with the Fifth Amendment, due process. What do you think of that?

Grant Woods: Well, it does, but I think it's one of the reasons this pardon was so unfortunate because generally, you would have due process. You would say, we are going through the whole thing here. You have the right to your day in court. He had his day in court. He lost. Then you have the right to appeal. Then you serve the sentence. Maybe you would serve it, maybe you wouldn't, generally, you would. You would express remorse and at some point to correct some sort of injustice, then the president steps in. That's how it's used. That's why it's in the constitution. It's not there because you want to come to Phoenix, Arizona on a hot summer night and say Joe didn't do anything. He was doing his job. We are for the rule of law today but not tomorrow because it's not convenient one time but the other time it is. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it goes.

Ted Simons: Some say you can't pardon someone when the rights of others are at stake. Again, we are in unchartered territory, aren't we?

Grant Woods: I don't see that, that's true. I think if there are future civil cases where the statute of limitations has a run, he will be in big trouble. Now that he's been pardoned on this, he won't be able to take the fifth. Having said that, you can pardon someone for just about any reason. I wouldn't say any reason. This is the one area i would give them. Say it was someone who had bribed the president, had given him a suitcase full of cash. I wouldn't think the pardon would work then. There has to be some limits on it, but frankly, this is a matter of opinion on this one. I disagree with the president on this one. It was unfortunate but predictable.

Ted Simons: There are those that say the only solution is impeachment. Pardon is political.

Grant Woods: That's not going to happen.

Ted Simons: President Trump said Arpaio was treated unbelievably unfairly. It was wrong for this to happen. He's done a great job for Arizona. He's loved by the people of Arizona.

Grant Woods: He's so loved that he got thrown out of office. He was creamed in the election. The voters threw Arpaio out. He was not done wrong. He got every right that he had, and he had a very conservative judge charge him or recommend charges for criminal contempt. A very conservative judge and he was found guilty by a moderate and political judge. He was found guilty because he was guilty.

Ted Simons: Can't let you go without the decision on DACA, your thoughts?

Grant Woods: Following the pardon of Joe Arpaio, this is a terrible example for the country and the people at the top, the president in this case dividing the country at a time we need to be brought together. Here in Arizona, I hope we can provide leadership and stand up for these kids. I served with attorney general sessions. I know him pretty well. He was a.g. When i was a.g. He was low on my list. He's lower now. His comments, opposed to the president, were softer. These were adults, all came here under seven. They are not criminals. They are eligible for DACA. It's not clear, crystal clear that President Obama’s actions were unconstitutional. It was a 4-4 vote of the U.S. Supreme court. Four of the eight said it was fine. We don't know, but the point is, is it the right thing to do? I don't think it was the right thing to do. If you think that Obama oversteps his bounds, fine. Say I want you to fix it. I demand, congress, you fix it. I'm going to get in there and fix it. He should have done that rather than throw chaos into the lives of young people here. It's up to congress. They ought to do it tomorrow for a good six months. Why not have the leadership come out of Arizona. We know these kids. We know their parents. We owe it to them to stand up for something better. That's what this country is about. It needs to be about that sort of welcoming and freedom. If it's not, it will be a different country in years to come.

Ted Simons: Got to stop you right there. Thanks.

Grant Woods, former Arizona Attorney General

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