Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe slammed President Donald Trump on Sunday for pardoning controversial former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, calling it a “bad decision” and saying its timing after the violence in Charlottesville made it even worse.
In an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union,” the Democratic governor said that after the deadly, racially motivated clashes in the Virginia city, it was time to unite against racism.
“It is time for reconciliation,” McAuliffe said.
Trump pardoned Arpaio on Friday evening. A federal judge had convicted Arpaio last month of criminal contempt for continuing to racially profile Latinos in defiance of a court order.
McAuliffe also said Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville was not sufficient and disputed Trump’s characterization that “both sides” — white supremacists and those protesting against them — were responsible for the violence.
“They brought their hatred here,” McAuliffe said of the white supremacists, who had convened in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. “It wasn’t both sides.”
The governor also said the issue was much bigger than a debate over Confederate monuments.
“It isn’t about monuments,” McAuliffe said. “This is a broader issue about the hatred and bigotry in our country.”
In 2015, McAuliffe said publicly he was against taking down Confederate statues. He said Sunday that he now supported removing them because they have come to represent hate.
And after sustained criticism of Trump, McAuliffe again left open the possibility of running for presidency in 2020, although he said he isn’t planning to do so as of now.
“We’ll see what happens down the road, but I have no intentions of running for president,” McAuliffe said.
White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said Sunday that the coverage of the Arpaio pardon was disproportionate, and he was focused instead on the response in Texas to Hurricane Harvey.
“I think the Arpaio pardon is pretty straightforward,” Bossert told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” “And, George, as you know, the President you worked for and just about every modern president ends up with some controversial pardons. But I think the President has been pretty clear on it. And I certainly don’t think it’s fair to characterize him as not caring about the rule of law.”
“I’m pretty certain, too, George, that this is not something that is going to threaten our constitutional order,” Bossert said.
And citing hurricane response, Bossert said he doubted the pardon would register much with the public.
“My guess is that not too many people care about this one guy right now,” he said.
Trump’s decision to pardon Arpaio came after weeks of criticism of the President from all sides for his response to Charlottesville.
Last week, a UN committee issued a warning to the United States about racism and hate crimes, saying US leaders had not sufficiently condemned white supremacy.
Asked about the committee’s criticism, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was committed to freedom and “equal treatment of people the world over.”
“I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values,” Tillerson said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Anchor Chris Wallace then asked, “And the President’s values?”
“The President speaks for himself,” Tillerson said.
“Are you separating yourself from that, sir?” Wallace continued.
“I made my own comments as to our values as well in a speech at the State Department last week,” Tillerson said.
In that speech earlier this month, Tillerson delivered a condemnation of both hate and those who “protect or accept hate speech” in any form — a sharp contrast with comments made by Trump.
“It’s simply important to say — although I think it’s well understood and embraced, I’m certain, by everyone in this room — we all know hate is not an American value, nowhere is it an American value,” the top US diplomat said.
“Those who embrace it poison our public discourse and they damage the very country that they claim to love,” Tillerson said. “So we condemn racism and bigotry in all its forms.”
“Racism is evil — it is antithetical to America’s values, it is antithetical to the American idea,” Tillerson said.
In the past, Tillerson has come under fire for saying, as he did in May, that US foreign policy should sometimes separate values such as freedom, human dignity and “the way people are treated” from policies it pursues around the world.