(CNSNews.com) – President Donald Trump defended his decision Monday to pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, pointing out that previous presidents had pardoned dangerous criminals and that Arpaio was a patriot who was unfairly targeted.

“And if you look at, as an example, President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, who was charged with crimes going back decades, including illegally buying oil from Iran while it held 53 American hostages — wasn’t allowed to do that, selling to the enemies of the United States. He was pardoned after his wife donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Clintons,” Trump said.

 

“Then you have dangerous criminals.  President Clinton pardoned Susan Rosenberg, a member of the Weather Underground, charged as part of a bank robbery that led to a guard and two police officers being killed,” Trump said in a joint White House press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

“Drug dealers. President Clinton commuted the sentence of Carlos Vignali, a central player in a cocaine ring that stretched from California to Minnesota. Criminal leaker. You’ve heard the word “leaker.”  President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who leaked countless sensitive and classified documents to WikiLeaks, perhaps and others, but a horrible, horrible thing that he did. Commuted the sentence and perhaps pardoned,” the president said.

“President Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was charged as part of a violent independence group from Puerto Rico, responsible for 28 Chicago-area bombings and many deaths in the 1970s and 1980s,” he said.

In comparison, Arpaio is a patriot who loves this country and protected its borders, Trump said. “And Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election — an election that he would have won, and he was elected many times. So I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe, and I think the people of Arizona, who really know him best, would agree with me.”

The president said he decided to issue the pardon on Friday evening in the middle of a hurricane, because he “assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.”

“You know the hurricane was just starting, and I put it out that I had pardoned … as we say Sheriff Joe. He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona. He’s very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration. He is loved in Arizona,” he said.

“I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly when they came down with their big decision to go get him right before the election voting started as you know, and he lost in a fairly close election. He would have won the election, but they just hammered him just before the election. I thought that was a very, very unfair thing to do,” Trump said.