Trump adviser defends Arpaio pardon as 'pretty straightforward'

PHOTO: White House Homeland Security Advisor Thomas Bossert responds to a question on hurricane Harvey from the news media during the daily press briefing at the White House, Aug. 25, 2017. PlayShawn Thew/EPA
WATCH Bossert: Border wall 'small investment for the return that we receive'

White House Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert defended President Donald Trump's controversial pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio as "pretty straightforward."

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"I think it's pretty straightforward what the president did. I think there's some disproportionate coverage of it right now," Bossert told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday.

Trump pardoned Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff, on Friday night, saying in a statement, "Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is [a] worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon."

The pardon drew heavy criticism from Democrats and a few Republicans, including both of Arizona's Republican senators. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted Friday that Trump's "pardon of Joe Arpaio, who illegally profiled Latinos, undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law."

But Bossert said on “This Week” that "just about every modern president makes some controversial pardons.”

“I certainly don't think it's fair to characterize him as not caring about the rule of law," Bossert said of Trump.

Bossert also dismissed criticism from former Vice President Joe Biden, who wrote of Trump's action in The Atlantic, "He's pardoned a law enforcement official who terrorized the Latino community, violated its constitutional rights, defied a federal court order to stop and ran a prison system so rife with torture and abuse he himself called it a concentration camp.”

“Well, Vice President Biden is both loved and known for his hyperbole. I think that's another example of it,” Bossert responded, repeating, “I think the Arpaio pardon is pretty straightforward… I'm pretty certain, too, George, that this is not something that is going to threaten our constitutional order.”

When pressed by Stephanopoulos on the president's calling Arpaio a “patriot” and praising his “admirable service” despite his conviction for defying a judge's order, Bossert responded, “I think there's a clemency argument that can be made for the long history of service both in the United States military and in law enforcement for the sheriff. I think the president's been pretty clear, it's pretty straightforward that he believes that that long history of service merits this clemency and he's acted accordingly.”

Stephanopoulos also asked Bossert about the president's threat to shut down the federal government by not signing spending bills if Congress fails to fund construction of a wall along the Mexico border.

"The president promised repeatedly during the campaign that Mexico is going to pay for that wall," Stephanopoulos said. "So why should the government shut down over a wall that Mexico is supposed to pay for?"

Bossert said Congress needs to provide up front "the original initial money that we need for that capital project," adding, "As we work with the Mexicans in other policies and trade policies and such, we'll determine ways for us to make that right."

A border wall is "a relatively small investment for the return that we receive," the Homeland Security adviser said. "From my perspective, the wall is something that works."

Shortly after Bossert's interview aired, Trump tweeted, "We must have the wall. Mexico will pay for it."

Bossert also commented on recent remarks by White House Economic Council Director Gary Cohn on the administration's response to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, following a white nationalist gathering.

Cohn told the Financial Times, "This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these [white supremacist] groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities.”

Stephanopoulos asked Bossert, "Do you believe the administration can and must do better?"

"I believe that the administration has condemned those groups," Bossert responded. "I know I've gone on the record and done it as well a number of times. And so I would like to say it again and in clear, unequivocal terms. There is no room in this country for racial violence or bigotry or neo-Nazi groups at all, period. I can't be clearer."

Bossert added that he is now focused on the emergency response to Tropical Storm Harvey in southeast Texas and that Cohn should be focused on tax reform.

"I'm focused right now on 4 or 5 million people, probably 23 million people at the end of the day, in the direct path of this storm that are suffering. And I hope that Gary Cohn is focused on the 300 million people who need tax relief. I know Donald Trump is," he said.

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