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Trump denies using Hurricane Harvey to hide his pardon of Joe Arpaio

"I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally."

During a joint press conference Monday with the president of Finland, President Donald Trump told reporters that he pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Friday evening because he “assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally” — because Hurricane Harvey was just about to hit Texas.

Trump has received criticism for the timing of the pardon, which came just as Hurricane Harvey was about to make landfall on Friday night. Typically that’s when a presidential administration would announce something that it doesn’t want to get much coverage, because people usually aren’t paying too much attention.

In response to a question from reporter John Roberts of Fox News about the timing of the announcement, Trump responded, “Well, a lot of people think it was the right thing to do, John, and actually in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally; you know, the hurricane had just started.”

Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for violating a federal court order meant to prevent racial profiling. Since Arpaio was first elected in 1992, he made national headlines for his treatment of prisoners in Arizona’s prison system — in ways that were ultimately ruled to be cruel and unusual — and for his illegal profiling of members of Maricopa County’s Latino population.