PHOENIX, Arizona — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio—known here simply as “Sheriff Joe”—loves 2016 GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and wants to accompany him on a trip to Mexico that would, in his estimation, either lead to a show of U.S. force in getting that country to come to the table on immigration and trade or expose that Mexico is uninterested in solving such problems.
“I want to go to Mexico,” Arpaio told Breitbart News in a wide-ranging, nearly two-hour long interview in his office at the Maricopa County justice complex in downtown Phoenix. “I’ve gotten resistance from the Mexican government, I’ve got resistance from the federal government here. It’s all got to do with danger. Come on? I’m not worried about it. It’s probably got to do with politics, not danger. Right?”
Arpaio pulled out for Breitbart News a print off of the congressional record from 1970 where he praised the Mexican government for working with U.S. law enforcement—at the time he was a federal agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Arpaio was stationed at one point in Mexico for the DEA, and in the testimony he gave to Congress he laid out how at that time the Mexican government worked with the United States to stop crime and aimed to end illegal immigration. “Here I’m praising the Mexican government, the judges, that’s 1970 when I lived there and worked there,” Arpaio said. “So I want to go. I want to meet with officials.”
“Let’s get to Trump now,” Arpaio said, moving the conversation along to the 2016 debates. “He’s talking about the fence, okay, or the wall, alright. I’ve been fighting this battle since I was a federal narcotics agent in 1957 because even then the drugs were all coming from Mexico. Even back in 1957—now if he wants to put a wall up, that’s okay, if it’s a good one. Now these fences you can hop over any day.”
Arpaio said he’s furious with career politicians who keep campaigning on empty promises to do something about illegal immigration. He’s not endorsing Trump yet, but he’s open to the possibility down the road. He’s most concerned with Trump proving he’s in this thing for the long haul. Being the sheriff of the fourth most populous county in America–Maricopa has nearly 4 million people–makes his endorsement well-sought-after from GOP candidates for president.
“All these politicians, they say the same thing—‘oh we’re going to put drones’—everybody talks,” Arpaio said. “I’ve been involved in all these campaigns. The last election, everybody running for president—seven of them?—two of them came here. Every one of them I met with. They all wanted my endorsement. I settled with Rick Perry, and did Iowa with him. But every election, ‘we’re going to do something, we’re going to do something, we’re going to put up the wall,’ but what really burns me up at least Trump isn’t saying this is everybody is saying ‘we have to secure the border first then we will look at comprehensive.’ They know the border will never be secured. Okay? So that’s a cop out. ‘Oh, let’s secure the border first.’ They don’t want to lock up the illegals here in the United States. That’s their cop out. So every election, every election all you hear is ‘oh we’re going to do something.’ Now, Trump messed with all of them—and I’m glad he did that—regardless of what happens he opened the door. Now everybody has to talk about illegal immigration again. Remember they did it with Romney? Now they have to do it again. It was hiding. You guys [the media] wouldn’t even care about it. It would be the economy. He opened the door. Now they’re all stuck. Now they all got to address the issue. Put up or shut up. So you got to give him credit for that.”
At that point, his voice raised, Arpaio called out to his assistant and asked: “Excuse me, would you close the door, because I’m screaming!” His frustration with national politicians making empty promises was clear.
“I was down there two months ago, I usually don’t go to the border but I did because I wanted to go across the border,” Arpaio told Breitbart News when asked about all the holes in the so-called fence that it’s in place right now. Agents on the other side in Mexico didn’t want him to come through, so he said he stuck his hands through the fence and gave them a commemorative coin.
“I’m going to do it,” Arpaio said of his plans to go to Mexico. “I’m tired of them trying to keep me from going to Mexico because I am an elected sheriff and I do have more experience than any of these people have when you look at my record.”
Arpaio is right about his level of experience. Before he was elected sheriff of Maricopa County in 1992—he’s been re-elected in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012—he served in the U.S. Army’s Medical Detachment Division, stationed partially in France, from 1950 to 1954. Upon discharge, Arpaio became a police officer in Washington, D.C., then in Las Vegas, Nevada, before his appointment as a special agent with the then Federal Bureau of Narcotics—which would later become the DEA. In that position, he served in Argentina, Turkey, and in Mexico. He eventually rose through the ranks to head the DEA’s Arizona branch.
Arpaio told Breitbart News that he’s spoken with Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about setting up a trip with the two of them to Mexico.
“I said I want to go with Trump to Mexico,” Arpaio said.
“I don’t care,” Arpaio added when asked where in Mexico they’d go together. “I want to fly into Mexico with him. I’ve been dealing with a local counsel general, they don’t want me, the Mexicans. Being with him [Trump], they’re not going to like it either. But they’re not going to stop me. I think I’m a little more high profile than he is—in fact when you look at the hate thing, I’m way above him. I’ve got five cartels here that drop hits on me.”
Arpaio said the cartels haven’t launched even a close-to-successful effort to take him out—“I haven’t been shot at or nothing”—but added, “I lock up people for threatening to kill me, just another one last week—not the cartels—so no, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t care. I don’t care. In fact, I think I’d be safer in Mexico than on Scottsdale Road around here or in Washington, D.C., where I walked the beat at 14th and U for four years with a nightstick and blackjack. I walked the black beat. I don’t worry about it, but I want to go [to Mexico] with Trump so I try and—this will be a big, big important step for him to get there and talk to the—the government probably won’t meet him, so I’m hoping he can get a group of business people. Just to get there. Get there.”
When Trump announced his presidential campaign—in a speech filled with concerns about crimes being committed by illegal aliens—he was viciously attacked by the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, institutional left, and even some Republicans. Perhaps more importantly, however, Mexican government officials attacked him as well. When asked what he would do to normalize U.S.-Mexico relations when it comes to the border, crime, drugs, and illegal immigration, Arpaio pointed back to when he was testifying before Congress in the early 1970s praising Mexico for cooperation with the United States in tackling these ever-present problems.
“Here’s what I would do—if you look at that, the congressional [testimony],” pointing to the print out of his testimony now in this reporter’s hand as Arpaio spoke from behind his desk. “What stimulated that was G. Gordon Liddy—remember him?—in 1969, under [President Richard] Nixon.” Pointing to his office wall adorned with photos and other memorabilia—including a photo of him with President Barack Obama—he continued: “You’ll see the Attorney General of the United States [Richard] Kleindienst, he died, but you’ll see a letter where he couldn’t say what it was—that was that operation under Nixon where he couldn’t say what it was but we just about closed the Mexican border for two weeks. G. Gordon Liddy did the groundwork for that big operation, but it caused the Mexicans a lot of ethical problems. Then I took over as the regional director right after that. They hated us. I had agents working undercover and all that. So what I did, I had the Attorney General come to my house to have blueberry pie—he loved blueberry pie so I had my wife keep pumping them out, then I gave him a little whiskey on the side—so I got more done with blueberry pie and a little whiskey than the big stick. I had busted big international organizations. My point is sometimes you can sit down, and like Donald Trump says, make a deal. We kind of think the same way, even though I’m not a billionaire—I’m just a little old sheriff—but that’s how you do it: Negotiations. Now, Nixon said: ‘If you don’t straighten out, I’m taking away your money.’ That’s Operation Intercept. They [Mexico] came around. They came around. You got to wheel and deal, and then you got to be able to fight—never surrender.”
Arpaio noted that he’s “in big battles over illegal immigration” and that “from the White House on down, they’re trying to get rid of me,” but he’s running for re-election again but “I’m not surrendering.”
“They’re ganging up on me,” Arpaio said. “In 2012, they tried to get rid of me and they’re going to do it again. I’m not surrendering. I’m going to keep running and keep winning and that’s the way he [Trump] does it. The only thing I’m concerned about—I’m not concerned whether he can do the job, he can—I’m concerned about him dropping out. That’s what I’m concerned about. Because, really, he doesn’t need the job. If he drops out, his airplane is almost like Air Force One. He’s got his bodyguards. But I don’t want him to drop out. He’s got to stay with it.”
Arpaio said he believes Trump can win the presidency.
“Oh yeah. If you got a peanut farmer who won—Jimmy Carter—remember him?” Arpaio said when asked if Trump can win. “The irony is everybody in the world says if you ran the government like a business, we’d be in good shape. He ought to start using that phrase.”
More from Sheriff Joe’s exclusive sit-down interview with Breitbart News will be coming soon.