Washington — U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Detroit led Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in calling for an investigation into President Donald Trump’s pardon last week of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, describing the pardon as a “gross injustice.”

A federal judge last month found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt for defying a court order to cease detaining immigrants based on suspicions that they were illegally in the country. He had faced up to six months in prison.

Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, wrote to Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, requesting that he convene an oversight hearing into the pardon and surrounding events “as soon as possible.”

“Based on a clear record of cruelty and open racism, Sheriff Arpaio is not worthy of reprieve. ... Sheriff Arpaio was convicted for criminal contempt of court because he ignored orders from a federal judge to stop engaging in racial profiling,” reads the letter, signed by 16 members of Congress in addition to Conyers.

“The pardon not only disregards the rule of law, it directly flouts the courts themselves by signaling that it is acceptable for parties to ignore court orders.”

The lawmakers were also upset that Trump issued the pardon without working with the advice of the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the Department of Justice, breaking with presidential tradition.

Justice Department policy calls for an expression of remorse and a waiting period of five years or more before consideration of an application for pardon – which Arpaio never filed.

The Democrats also highlighted press reports that Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to drop the case against Arpaio, though Sessions did not. They said it suggests Trump’s interference was “politicizing” the justice system.

“It is also our committee’s unique and pressing responsibility to conduct oversight of the President’s use of executive power – particularly when that power is expressed as a pardon that only serves to endorse the transgressions committed by the offender,” the Democrats wrote.

“If we do not examine this use of the pardon power, we fear that the Committee will be seen by our constituents—and by future generations—as also having endorsed the Sheriff’s conduct.”

Trump has defended his pardon of Arpaio, saying the investigation into the sheriff was political.

“He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona. He’s very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration,” Trump said during a Monday news conference at the White House.

“He is loved in Arizona. I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly.”

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