Trump pardons former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio

US president Donald Trump. Photo: Chris Kleponis. Pool/ Getty Images.

US President Donald Trump has granted a presidential pardon to the controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio, 85, who once led the Maricopa County sheriff’s department, was found guilty last month of criminal contempt for violating the terms of a 2011 court order in a racial profiling case. He lost a re-election bid last year.

Trump earlier this week held out the possibility of a pardon for Arpaio, but at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, Trump hinted that Arpaio would be “just fine,” immediately prompting speculation that a presidential pardon was imminent.

“The people of Arizona know the deadly and heartbreaking consequences of illegal immigration,” Trump continued.

Arpaio gained notoriety as a vocal critic of illegal immigration and has been accused of encouraging racial profiling of Latinos in Arizona.

“He should have had a jury, Trump said at his Tuesday rally. “But you know what, I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK?”

“But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” Trump continued. “Is that OK? All right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”

David Choi contributed to this report.