PHOENIX - President Donald Trump hinted at a possible pardon for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a rally Tuesday night in Phoenix.
"Was [former sheriff Joe] convicted for doing his job?" President Trump asked the crowd. "I'll make a prediction, I think he's going to be just fine."
"I won't do it tonight because I don't want to cause any controversy," he added.
Arpaio, who did not attend the rally, was convicted July 31 of criminal contempt of court for failing to stop traffic patrols targeting immigrants after being ordered to do so by a federal judge.
When reached Tuesday night, Arpaio said he was surprised the president mentioned him.
"I am very humble he brought me up, and didn't know he was going to [do so]," Arpaio said. "I'm very happy. I was with him from day one and will be with him as long as he is president."
Speculation that President Trump would forgive Arpaio's conviction swirled immediately after the decision was announced, and increased after the announcement of Trump's visit.
Earlier Tuesday, amid that speculation, the White House said Trump would not act on Arpaio at the Phoenix event.
Pardons are incredibly rare for presidents in their first year in office. Since President Gerald Ford, the average is about two pardons per year, with the number increasing the longer they are in office.
Arpaio would join the ranks of several other Arizonans to receive pardons. Former Governor Fife Symington's conviction on seven counts of bank fraud was pardoned by then-President Bill Clinton on his last day in office, President Obama pardoned Andrew Ellifson after being convicted of setting up an offshore pornography spamming operation, and during the term of President Richard Nixon two Arizonans were pardoned: Alejandro Munoz and Ella DeClay.
The typical pardon process involves a formal petition through the Department of Justice. According to official statistics, the administration has received 376 requests for pardons and 1,508 requests for clemency since President Trump took office.