August 22, 2017 13:42 GMT by nytimes.com

Trump Will Meet Border Patrol Officials Before Rally in Arizona

Trump Will Meet Border Patrol Officials Before Rally in Arizona

The trip may win praise from his supporters but could spark protests, especially if the president pardons a former sheriff known for cracking down on illegal immigration.

Washington — President Trump on Tuesday will meet with Border Patrol officials in Arizona before attending a campaign-style rally, as he seeks to move past one of the most difficult stretches of his controversy-roiled presidency.

Mr. Trump will survey border equipment in Yuma and meet with members of the military before heading to his rally in Phoenix. He may visit the border as well, although administration officials on a background call with reporters declined to say that would definitely happen.

The trip, planned several weeks ago, is an opportunity for the president to claim promises kept for a political base that applauded his hard line on immigration during the campaign.

But the trip is also potentially fraught — Mr. Trump dangled the possibility to Fox News a week ago that he would pardon Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff who became an avatar for cracking down on undocumented immigration thanks to his round-‘em-up raids.

Last month, a judge ruled that Mr. Arpaio flouted a court order telling him to back down from detaining people his office suspected of being undocumented immigrants. He was found guilty of criminal contempt of court.

On the background call, a White House official would not say whether the president plans to offer Mr. Arpaio such a pardon. Privately, two senior administration officials said that Mr. Trump was not expected to pardon Mr. Arpaio at the rally, although they would not rule out the possibility, given the president’s penchant for showy displays.

The president is also expected to focus on unity in the same vein as his opening lines from his televised address to the nation on Monday night about his Afghanistan strategy. Mr. Trump began that speech by declaring himself opposed to bigotry, in an attempt to address the controversy over his equivocating response several days ago to racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The Trump campaign put out a radio ad featuring the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, urging people to attend the rally in Arizona.

Mr. Trump’s appearance in Phoenix is expected to draw protests, and an announcement about pardoning Mr. Arpaio could intensify the potential for clashes.

On the background call, officials also said that the number of people apprehended by the Border Patrol in the Yuma area had significantly decreased over the same period, January 1 to July 31, last year, figures they characterized as a result of Mr. Trump’s policies.

Officials declined to explain why the call was on background.

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