|On Friday, August 25, 2017, President Donald Trump issued the first pardon of his presidency to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of a misdemeanor count of contempt of court last month. Like many other presidential pardons, the motivations behind Trump’s pardon of Arpaio are larger than the crime itself, and inextricably linked to the political and social climate of the time. The presidential pardon is a tool that presidents have used throughout history, particularly in times of rebellion or discord (those that do not involve Thanksgiving turkeys, that is). It is a unique power that rests with the executive, despite the Founders’ fear of monarchy and corruption that could come with one person holding so much authority.
This lesson explores the foundations of the presidential pardon in the U.S. Constitution, as well as how and why this power has been exercised throughout history. Students will explore various presidential pardons from Washington to Clinton to gain an understanding of the motivations behind pardons and the impact of pardons on society.
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