Controversial Arizona sheriff not giving up ‘birther’ investigation

Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Donald Trump has said he now believes President Barack Obama was born in the United States — but one of his most prominent supporters says he isn’t giving up on the investigation and doesn’t know “how it’s going to turn out.”

Joe Arpaio, the controversial Maricopa County Sheriff from Arizona and strident opponent of illegal immigration, spoke Tuesday night to a meeting of the Surprise Tea Party Patriots, the group that initiated Arpaio’s quest to prove that Obama was born outside the US. And according to a report from the Arizona Republic, he made clear he would continue.

“I’m not going to give up, and we’re looking into it,” he told the group. “I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”

Acknowledging Trump’s shift on the issue last week, Arpaio — who has closely aligned himself with Trump during the Republican presidential nominee’s political ascent — nevertheless dismissed his candidate’s reversal, and insisted that the birth certificate provided by Obama was a fake. It’s a claim that has been thoroughly debunked.

“I don’t care where he’s from. We are looking at a forged document. Period,” he said, according to the report.

The man known as “Sheriff Joe” actually said that he had “nothing to do with Trump on the birth certificate.” He told the group, “We did it on our own, because of you guys.”

And Arpaio said that despite political pressure to drop the issue, he would persevere. “I know all the politicians say, ‘Sheriff Joe, don’t talk about it.’ But how can I back down when we started it? I’m not going to just forget it.”

Dormant for years, the “birther” movement’s false claim that Obama was born outside the US returned to the headlines last week when Trump refused to say whether he accepted the President’s citizenship in an interview. Trump’s equivocation sparked a firestorm of criticism, subsequently prompting the GOP nominee to declare at the end of a press conference last week that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.”

Obama, who was born in Hawaii in 1961, produced his long-form birth certificate at a White House news conference in 2011, largely putting the controversy to rest.

Arpaio has served as a prominent supporter and surrogate for the Trump campaign, appearing with the candidate during campaign stops in Arizona and even speaking on behalf of Trump at the Republican National Convention over the summer.

By David Wright, CNN