The White House is drawing up documents to pardon ex-Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio who is one of the most unpopular figures in the country among Hispanics.
Among the justifications, the White House is considering Arpaio's five decades of law enforcement service in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and as Maricopa County sheriff, CNN reported. The Trump administration believes sending him to prison for "enforcing the law" and "working for the safety of the public" would be inappropriate, the network said.
The 85-year-old former Maricopa County Sheriff was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to racially profile undocumented Hispanic immigrants despite an order from a judge to stop the practice. He is due to be sentenced Oct. 5 and faces six months in prison.
The judge ruled that Arpaio used racist tactics when arresting and detaining immigrants.
If he is sentenced, Arpaio's age could result in house arrest rather than a prison cell.
A presidential pardon would allow Arpaio to reapply for the job of sheriff, something the current conviction prevents. However, despite the pardon, his conviction would not be expunged from his record.
Arpaio is known by fans as "America's toughest Sheriff," and is famous for making detainees wear pink underwear in a sweltering outdoor tent jail.
Maricopa County, population 4.2 million, is located in the south-central part of Arizona, including the city of Phoenix. It is the fourth-most populous county in the United States. Almost 30 percent of the population is Latino.
The pardon has been rumored for a while due to the close ties Trump and Arpaio forged on the election campaign trail last year.
On Tuesday at a rally in Phoenix, the president strongly hinted that he would issue the pardon, adding fuel to earlier statements on the Fox News Channel where he said he was seriously considering it.
That was despite a statement by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton that the pardon would "enflame emotions and further divide our nation."
During his speech Tuesday, Trump asked the audience: "I am curious. Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?" The crowd roared.
"They attacked the sheriff for doing his job," the president lamented, before hinting that will pardon him. "I'll make a prediction," Trump added. "I think he's going to be just fine."
Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez wrote in an opinion column published Tuesday that Arpaio is "one of our nation’s most notorious symbols of racism and bigotry."
He added: "Instead of catching criminals, Arpaio tore families apart and built what one of his own deputies called a 'wall of distrust' between the police and the Latino community."
The president's authority to grant a pardon is set forth in Article II of the Constitution, which states that "the president ... shall have the power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."