President Trump apparently has no plans to pardon "America's toughest sheriff" Joe Arpaio at his campaign-style rally Tuesday night in Phoenix.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Air Force One that there would be no discussion of a pardon and no action taken on that front at any point on Tuesday.
Trump himself recently told Fox News that he was “seriously considering” a pardon for the former Maricopa County, Ariz., lawman.
“I might do it right away, maybe early this week,” Trump told Fox News on Aug. 13. “I am seriously thinking about it.”
When the president’s campaign announced the Phoenix rally days later, it touched off immediate speculation that the event could be the venue to announce the president’s first pardon.
'I’m still going to support him as long as he is the president of the United States because that’s the way I am. I don’t desert for political reasons. I’ll stick with him.'
But the White House made clear that no announcement will be made in Phoenix.
Earlier Tuesday, Arpaio told Fox News he wasn’t sure if he’d even be at the rally.
“I haven’t officially been invited—I’ve been to every single one in the last two years, but I don’t anticipate going down there on my own,” Arpaio told Fox News, adding that he was “not sure” if the president would issue a pardon.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to comment on whether they plan to extend an invitation to the sheriff.
“I would accept [a pardon], but we’ll see what happens,” Arpaio said, while stressing that his support for Trump and his administration is unwavering. “[I]t doesn’t matter because I’m still going to support him as long as he is the president of the United States because that’s the way I am. I don’t desert for political reasons. I’ll stick with him.”
Arpaio added: “I said he’ll go down in history as one of the best presidents we’ve ever had, and I stick with that prediction regardless.”
Arpaio, 85, who served as sheriff in Maricopa County for more than 20 years before losing election in 2016, forged a national reputation for his tough and controversial policies cracking down on illegal immigration. Arpaio’s widely publicized tactics included forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and housing them in desert tent camps.
He was convicted of misdemeanor contempt of court for disregarding an Arizona judge’s order in 2011 to stop his anti-immigrant traffic patrols.
“We’ve been fighting this and appealing this, but no one will really look at our defense,” Arpaio said, claiming that he did not use “racial profiling” but used race as a “criteria.” He complained he wasn't given a jury trial.
“Of course, if I had a jury, I never would have been convicted,” he said.
Arpaio is expected to be sentenced Oct. 5, and could face up to six months in prison.
“Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked, during the interview with Fox News' Gregg Jarrett last week. “He has protected people from crimes and saved lives. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
Arpaio, who endorsed then-candidate Trump in January 2016, told Fox News on Tuesday that he had not spoken directly with the president since after the election, but claimed that his attorney wrote “memos” in June to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I know the president was made aware of the memos. I know all these guys at the White House. I campaigned with a lot of them,” Arpaio said Tuesday morning, though the Justice Department did not comment on-the-record on the matter.
The White House did not have any comment on whether the president had reviewed the Arpaio memos.
The prospect of a pardon has touched off a political debate in Arizona. Republican Reps. Andy Biggs and Trent Franks support a pardon, while Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called for the president to reconsider even hosting Tuesday's event.
“Let’s be clear: A pardon of Arpaio can be viewed only as a presidential enfdorsement of the lawlessness and discrimination that terrorized Phoenix’s Latino community,” Stanton wrote in on an op-ed in the Washington Post on Monday.
Before the rally, Trump will visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Yuma Station in Arizona, the main base of operations for the USBP Yuma Sector. The president will meet with Border Patrol agents, and discuss policy initiatives and legislative efforts, like Kate’s Law and the funding of his paramount campaign promise – the wall.
A DHS official told reporters on a conference call Tuesday morning that Border Patrol has apprehended 126,472 people who were illegally attempting to enter the United States at the border between Jan. 1 and July 31 of this year – a 46 percent decrease in the level of apprehensions from the same time last year.
Trump signed an executive order in January calling for a “physical wall along the southern border.” However, a DHS official Tuesday described the southern border infrastructure as both wall and fence.
"The wall is a prominent part of that, but what is along the border in Yuma is fence, so we use those two interchangeably," DHS spokesman Dave Lapan told reporters. "... There will be areas where a wall makes the most sense from an operational perspective."
Fox News' Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.