President Donald Trump hinted Tuesday he could pardon Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Maricopa County sheriff, amid reports the President is planning to pardon him for his conviction on criminal contempt charges.
"Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?" he said to cheers at his Phoenix rally.
"So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? ... 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. But Sheriff Joe should feel good."
When asked on Air Force One earlier Tuesday about a would-be Arpaio pardon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said no news would be made Tuesday.
"I can tell you that there will be no discussion of that today at any point and no action will be taken on that front at any time today," Sanders said.
Trump kicked off his campaign rally Tuesday defending his responses to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and slamming the "damn dishonest" media.
"What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America. And tonight, this entire arena stands united against the thugs who perpetrate hatred and violence," Trump said, adding, "I strongly condemn neo-Nazis, white Supremacists and the KKK."
Trump spent roughly 15 minutes near the top of his remarks going through each of the three public statements he made in response to the violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that left one counterprotester dead. In retelling his remarks, Trump omitted his reference to "many sides" in his Saturday response and his reference to "both sides" on Tuesday, comments seen as equating neo-Nazis with counter protesters.
"I hit 'em with neo-Nazi, I hit 'em with everything. KKK? We have KKK. I got 'em all," Trump said in reference to calling out specifics groups in his statements.
Less than 24 hours after delivering a primetime speech outlining his Afghanistan strategy, Trump is holding a campaign rally in Phoenix, with Vice President Mike Pence and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaking.
In anticipation of Trump's trip, the political world was buzzing about not just whether the President would set off controversy in Phoenix -- but which specific hot-button clash he could wade into.
Could he endorse Kelli Ward or another Republican challenger to Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who recently wrote a book decrying Trump's corrupting influence on the party?
Two Republicans who are openly considering primary campaigns against Flake next year were part of the pre-program at the rally. Jeff DeWit, the Arizona state treasurer, was the MC, tweeting photos of himself with Trump from earlier in the day. And Faith Graham, the 13-year-old daughter of Robert Graham, the former state GOP chairman, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Trump mocked Arizona Republican Sens. Flake and John McCain, while theatrically avoiding saying their names.
"One vote away, I will not mention any names," he said -- a reference to McCain's vote against Republicans' health care bill.
Then, he moved on to Flake, saying: "Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is. And now, we haven't mentioned any names, so now, everybody's happy."
Notably not part of the program: Kelli Ward, the former state senator who Trump praised on Twitter for running against Flake last week. Ward is expected to be in the crowd but is not speaking and was not a VIP attendee. Still, in a show of support perhaps left over from Ward drawing 39% in a primary against McCain last year, hundreds -- likely thousands -- of people standing in line outside the event carried Ward signs or wore Ward stickers.
Trump's arrival at the Phoenix Convention Center was be greeted by mass protests from progressive and anti-bigotry groups.
Democrats in Arizona, including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, are lambasting Trump for even visiting the state -- particularly for a campaign rally.