“I’ll make a prediction,” Trump after invoking Arpaio’s name to thunderous applause. “I think he’s going to be just fine. I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy, but Sheriff Joe can feel good.”
Arpaio, the tough-talking law enforcement official who took a hard line against illegal immigration, was recently convicted of defying a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants. A federal judge in 2013 ruled his police department racially profiled Latinos and ordered the sheriff to cease the practice.
Trump questioned the ruling, asking rhetorically: “Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing this job?”
Trump in recent weeks has reportedly considered pardoning Arpaio, a move critics decried as an endorsement of racism. News of the potential pardon comes amid turmoil afflicting Trump’s administration after he defended white nationalists who rallied in Charlottesville, Va. in defense of Confederate statues. The weekend of protest ended fatally, after a white supremacist plowed into a crowd of counter-protestors.
Tuesday’s rally included an introduction by Vice President Mike Pence. Pence, in his address, touched on themes of unity and patriotism. “When we are united, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together.”
He added: “When we open our hearts to patriotism, there’s no room for prejudice.”
Trump began his remarks reading from a teleprompter, similarly touching on nationalist themes. “Loyalty to our nation requires loyalty to each other,” Trump said as he read from prepared text, at times ad-libbing in between lines.
Eventually Trump began speaking extemporaneously, demonizing the news media as “sick people” and “dishonest.” He said reporters “don’t like our country” and warned that the news media is “trying to take way our history and our heritage.”
Tuesday’s stream-of-consciousness address by Trump stood in stark contrast to his scripted remarks Monday night on the decision to keep American troops in Afghanistan. By the time he came on stage and rallied supporters, protestors had spent hours outside of the convention center, some carrying signs calling for Trump’s impeachment.