WASHINGTON – Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was in Washington Thursday with a message for the rest of the country: Told you so.
Arpaio, one of President-elect Donald Trump’s earliest supporters, said he flew to Washington for the inauguration that he predicted long ago, based on his belief that a “silent majority” of Americans would turn out for Trump.
“I supported him from day one,” a relaxed Arpaio said from a pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial where Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, military bands and others performed.
Trump took the stage at the event and told the crowd that his inauguration was the culmination of a movement that began 18 months ago with his campaign, but “you had much more to do with it than I did. I’m the messenger,” according to a transcript of his remarks. He repeated his campaign pledge to make America great again, before the evening was capped with fireworks.
Arpaio was one of Trump’s first backers, speaking at a Phoenix rally in July 2015 when the Trump campaign was just getting started. The sheriff’s hardline stance on immigration complemented Trump’s call to deport all undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Arpaio, who lost his re-election bid in November, gained national publicity for his controversial enforcement of the state’s anti-immigrant “show me your papers” law, SB 1070, and the creation of an outdoor “tent city” where county prisoners were held sometimes in three-digit heat.
Arpaio got a primetime speaking slot during the Republican National Convention that nominated Trump last summer, and he spoke in support of Trump at an August 2016 immigration speech in Phoenix.
“I’m very happy to be able to be participating in this great event today and tomorrow,” Arpaio said Thursday.
Arpaio said he has supported other politicians in the past, but that Trump “is something different. And that’s what we need in this country.”
There were rumors after the election that Arpaio might be considered for a spot in the Trump administration. That talk has died down, but Arpaio, who lost his bid for re-election in November, said he does intend to slow down.
“Well I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not going fishing,” said Arpaio, adding later that he doesn’t have any hobbies and only works.
Arpaio said comments by congressional critics that Trump’s presidency is not legitimate are “disgusting.” While hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to try to disrupt or completely shut down Trump’s inauguration, Arpaio said his years as sheriff make him believe that the Trump protests will not turn violent.
But he said he hopes everyone will join together during this important time of transition for our country.
“I think that he will be a great president,” Arpaio said after Thursday’s concert. “And I’m convinced that he will make America great again.”
– Cronkite News video by Marisela Ramirez