Trump: 'I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe'

In a news conference with the president of Finland, Trump comments on Hurricane Harvey and defends his pardon of Joe Arpaio.
16:00 | 08/28/17

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Transcript for Trump: 'I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe'
I have gone on in the bots are continuing coverage now some of the remarks there made by president trump at a joint press conference with the president of Finland let's go live now. To my colleague Rick Klein ABC's political director down in Washington DC and Rick let's start with the biggest story we are obviously all still covering. Very much today will continue to for the coming days and weeks and that is the response post hurricane Harvey. Very quickly this is the first real test when he came to this administration for this kind of disaster what do you make of how they've done so far there. While the real test that's ahead for the federal Hartman a lot of federal spots doesn't start until after a recovery efforts are well under way as presidents that were in the it's that it be in the region. Tomorrow I'll be a key indicator so party's been talking up the performance of his team. By all accounts the local officials say they're getting. What they need out of the federal side at things another big task that the president previewed here will be our resources are available this is an issue that's divided the Republican. And party in the past how you handle. Emergency funding after disasters and already you're seeing battle lines drawn between Republicans in congress some of whom are still smarting over. The efforts by some conservative the hold up money over hurricanes Andy. Five years ago presidential saying he is -- the members of congress that there will be swept funding but nothing like this happens easily. Let's go live now to that room where president compass speaking. Our chief White House correspondent John Karl joins us live there and John we heard the president asked about a number of different topic there. Specifically though something that his own Republican colleagues have pushed back against that it that controversial Heidi apart rather of the controversial sheriff Joseph Arpaio. From Arizona but the president dug in on his decision. We sure did on and this is pardon that has been roundly criticized. A by the two Republican senator from the state of Arizona and also. By the Republican speaker of the house Paul Ryan a pardon. Of Arpaio for defying fat a federal. Court order related to civil rights law. It's a pardon that many Republicans. Said sent the wrong message to the country about. The president's commitment to the rule of law and his commitment to civil rights law but I've got to say I'm not the thing it. I found most striking about the president's response to this. Is his explanation. Offer why he made this pardon as the hurricane was hitting. The coast of Texas some people have said that the president did that late on Friday night. Because he was trying to hide the news he's had quite the contrary that he figured that ratings would be higher. Because of the hurricane that he figured that more people would be watching and hasn't said the ratings would be higher because of the hurricane. And area and he. Issued the pardon of Joseph Arpaio has really extraordinary statement. A remarkable statement that by the president since you mentioned John also in that late night Friday news dump. Was the information that the president sent guidance to the Pentagon for how he wants that transgender military band. Ax to keep it that when he tweeted about at the end of July haven't heard anything else from the White House about that. All we're we're still waiting for further guidance on at the White House side did give some information. I saying vick's. Essentially. That deep deep deep the Pentagon would not be able to recruit transgender service members actually there was no recruiting going on the eve even now even before. The president's actions and that a decision about what would happen would those transgender service members and now serving. Would wait for a six month review that the Pentagon has been conducting so. Us still no details about what will happen to those are transgender individuals that are now serving in the military. Right that is ABC's John crawl live there thanks John good Safia detective. And Rick climbed back over TU now that Friday news dump we haven't had a chance to talk about it yet but desperate to huge announcement but any other day. Could have taken up an entire new cycle on their own in the president. As John mentioned there release that information as everyone else in the rest of the country prepared to focus on hurricane Harvey. Imagine they'll be a lot of attention paid to the back to the president and maybe he was joking saying that he thought the ratings are higher Friday night clearly he had an opportunity to do it any time. He was at that rally last Tuesday I was also struck. By the fact that he said that he cited as one of the reasons that pardon the response to that crowd. That Aziz self selected crowd those are front supporters that went to a campaign rally on Tuesday he knew. They were fans of sheriff Joseph Arpaio from Maricopa County rate near Phoenix. He knew what their reaction would be so in a duty to focus grouping that somehow and and and surprised by that response. I was also struck by the frankly what about his and that he engaged in defending his pardon. Talking about controversial pardons that were issued by area president's Clinton and Obama. As if that changes the legal situation notice questioning his right that it is part as the constitutional. Right to do it the question is whether it was a wise one in terms of the timing. Whether he was trying to shield it from or public scrutiny and I think. Putting out something on a Friday night when his other major national news story going on like a hurricane about the barrel down the first such storms presidency. That's and he seems pretty undeniable whatever is has about the potential rate. Let's talk about that other big headline now let's head over to the Pentagon and our colleague we Martinez who covered the Department of Defense. For ABC and Louis shed some light on this for us if you can we know that that guidance from the president. Went to the Pentagon about that transgender military ban that he tweeted about at the end of July what do we know about the details Howell fact people. Well it so like John said it's still unclear how what's been exactly happened because the president is giving the Pentagon about six months to come up a plan. About how to deal with the individuals who stepped forward because a year ago they were allowed to serve openly as transgendered persons in the military. I'm but there seems to be some kind of an opening there that the White House is given to the penny on. Defense Secretary Mattis is being given some factors if he can determine. This of that whether these individuals can possibly remain inside. The military while openly transgendered. Did the loophole is that there is unspecified factors. Secretary Mattis can determine whether these individuals cancer. Any good. I'm matter Indians in the sense that whether they won't affect unit cohesion way they won't affect military effectiveness or readiness. So there's that single possibility there that potentially. We could see some kind. Of leeway allowing individuals to stand for it to continue to serve openly as transgendered individuals and and as you mentioned the. The chance gender military members can now. Openly serve so at remarkable turn of events there when he got back to Rick. On just to follow up on this one issue that because as you look at had written party scene that they are now three lawsuits against president trounced specifically challenging this one ban. So how does this and I mean I know we don't know how to end up but does this end up going to employ the same way at the travel glamour to send up mired. In the legal process. It has that potential and I do think the the the discretion in the new wants that's now in the in the order right now that the lay is telling. This was a policy announced by weak and we know from the reporting of Louie and others that the Pentagon was caught on a where's by this week we didn't. They didn't know what to make of this and it was it took about a month. Before the president even sent any formal guidance and even now to the latest for the review period of some six months it will end up giving. The secretary of the defense James Mattis some discretion on how to actually implement it isn't the kind of clear cut a decision that that he had wanted I think that they're trying to find. Legal strategies to back it up because it is gonna come under legal assault. Particularly if it results in the discharges of people who enlisted were allowed to serve after having enlisted so I think it raises all sorts of questions that I think. It is an example of a president who's used to very simple declarations but not used to the governmental machinery and laws and norms and structures that surround it. This was a policy that's had to be drafted because of a tweet to back up. A statement that he delivered by surprise 1 morning on Twitter that's not traditionally up things have done I think a whole lot of lawyers. People inside the government and outside are recognizing that. Both of these moves in the president on Friday that mentioned deserve a ton more scrutiny in time. Then we've been able to give them because of other headlines but I want to get another angle on this our colleague Mike Levine. Covers the justice department for the network weigh in on this for me Mike especially when it comes to Joseph Arpaio. I think this is one thing to remember about the Arpaio part it. In the one thing that sets this apart from all of the other cases that the president mentioned state during the Obama administration is that. Those people were pardoned or had their sentences commuted after an extensive process at the Justice Department. They had their attorneys apply for pardons or to have their sentences commuted those applications were reviewed for months. Years in the justice department's office of pardon attorney. And they were proofed that didn't happen here. Joseph Arpaio not. There are reports that that president trump reached out to attorney general Jeff Sessions many months ago and asked whether the case itself could be dropped. But in terms of a party that never made it through the channels of the Justice Department. The Justice Department had no role in making this pardon I talked to senior Justice Department. Justice Department officials officials just a week ago and they said they had heard nothing about and Arpaio part. Tonight to put that in the context forming a howling usual is that says something like that happen from time to time or is this the first you've ever heard of something like that. I've been covering the Justice Department first aren't covering the Justice Department in 2005. And I've never heard of anything like this that's incredible look let me get your take on something else another big story. It's worth paying attention to from the last 24 hours it's an executive order signed by the president. That basically reverses. Decision that President Obama made. Limiting police departments ability to use surplus military equipment Tommy a little bit about that. Yen nine after the Ferguson member Michael Brown was killed an unarmed black man young man was killed by a white police officer Ferguson 2014. That of course. Significant tensions there were riots that that spread across in certain parts of in cities across country. And fast over many months and in Baltimore Freddie Freddie great was killed at the hands of police officers there a month after Freddie Grey's death. Obama Justice Department decided that to try to lower the temperature in cities across the country they were going to stop. They're going to block military grade equipment from going to police departments because. There was a lot of criticism that happening armored vehicles that look like tanks rolling down city streets was not going to help build relationships. Between police and communities it's not gonna help actually fight crime. That was two years ago fast or to stay and the trump administration is now announce that they're going to start allowing that equipment go back to police departments. And Rick Klein give me your take on this because this is part and parcel of what mr. trump ran on he won it to undo. A lot of the decisions put into place by President Obama. At what we now also have some new approval numbers from Gallup and some of the key groups that supported mr. trump p.s down quite a bit. How weak this agenda playing out across the country. I think he cast what he's doing now regarding the duties of police vehicles part of the broader efforts on criminal justice reform. Ended in bipartisan movement in the direction frankly Obama has been doing it on sentencing reform. On drug laws and drug legalization bluntly loosening some of the laws around that. And of course and in this the the acquisition of this a vehicle which is an equipment like this. So I think you're seeing some push back from more of the libertarian wing of the party ran all out with a pretty blistering statement. About how this is going the wrong direction if it was a broader peace look I think is telling the president. Is talking again about that rally last week. He is focused intently as he always has been on his base and we've seen every signal that they are still strongly with him it's about a quarter to a third of the country. There trump fans they'd be like what they see. Even though both the vastly different tones we saw last week Monday and Tuesday trump totally different people they like that broadly. And I think in terms of delivering on a pardon for a pile. As saying we're gonna get out of this. Get out of the restrictions on. I'm giving access with military equipment to police and making making it safer and GAAP continuing to push for that border wall all of that is appease in the guy has. Very clear about about what he rattles on in a lot of ways and I think. Delivering for that base continues to be the number one priority of him himself as president. At the scene Tamika want to get your take on something because we're seeing some of those policies coming apart at the scenes in some cases. And divisions among his own administration Aris who comment. Made by his secretary of state Rex Tillerson in an interview over the weekend. That would remarkable in and of themselves Elena just play that clip for you for a second and then talk about on the back and period. I don't believe anyone vouched the American people's values for the commitment of the American government or the government's agencies to advancing those values and defending those values and and the president's values. The president speaks for himself crushed. Are you. Separating herself from that sir I've spoken I made my own column it sister our values as well as speech I gave to the State Department especially. Rick of course Rex Tillerson there were talking about the president's remarks in response to the violence in Charlottesville but that's pretty remarkable thing for the secretary of state say that the president. Doesn't speak for the current year anyone else he speaks for himself. It's stunning and you can tell from the way he modulated that response exactly what he's doing. David policy areas as well we're excellence and has been in off message when it comes to the White House the administration and this was a declaration of independence. A very stark statement by the secretary of state. About the events of the last couple of weeks which have been extraordinary also have the Defense Secretary. Jim Mattis giving a speech did to troops in Afghanistan just just the other day where he said he with the State's strong during this period of division. That was seen by a lot of people as a as a bit of a review a statement against president trump and his leadership even if it was an indirect one. I think you're seeing a growing discomfort inside trumps inner circle inside his cabinet. About the way he's handled himself we saw that as the interview that Gary Kohn gave last week we talked about his that they resigning over the child's response so. That seems distant now and in the context of this current news environment there's only two weeks ago that the president was under fire for those remarks and clearly there's a lot of those wounds that have yet to heal. Rick formula to go just give us a look ahead now the president expected to make a trip down to the area impacted. By hurricane Harvey what a week's fact happened during that trap. What we don't know much about what he's going on the ground rather then Gilani trump will be will be joining him we don't know how long. He'll be there he's arriving late morning in Corpus Christi which is a bit closer to possibly impacted areas than than something might advise given. The strain on local resources and in arranging a presidential visit. He also just said that he is planning to be back there and maybe over the weekend as well as perhaps visiting Louisiana wanted to show that he is in control I think the president trying to invade and even. In the units of the trip to Camp David over the weekend that if he's in touch with and I'm working with with people inside his government striking also to me on the is that he still has on the books they have a wins the event in Missouri. There's nothing to do with natural disasters or any of the other topics of the day. And that's to do with tax reform it's a politically important state a message he's been pushing. I am curious for about how political he chooses the yet I given the events of the last couple weeks and given of course the unfolding tragedy downing is that. Of course for gonna have that trip and on the details live right here. Rick Klein thanks for joining Utley Martinez Mike Levine. Thanks to you both as well and thanks to all of you for watching as well remember you can go to abcnews.com. Anytime for continuing coverage. Of all of those stories and particularly of course on the aftermath. A hurricane parties see right here for your latest live news on that as well for now I'm on the divide Sanofi back here soon.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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