The Atlantic

Why the Arpaio Pardon Matters

The president chose to pardon a public official using state power for racist ends.
Source: Brian Snyder / Reuters

Presidents issue pardons for a wide variety of reasons. The highest-profile pardon cases, though not the most numerous, are political:

The first President Bush pardoned several officials who took part in the Reagan-era “Iran-Contra” affair, which involved the covert sale of arms to Iran to fund right wing rebels in Nicaragua. These included the former secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger; the former national-security adviser, Robert McFarlane; and a former State Department official, Elliott Abrams. Gerald Ford issued the single most significant politics-related pardon: that of his predecessor, Richard Nixon, who had resigned as president to avoid the inevitability of being impeached. Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam-era draft-law offenders as a class.

In 1971 Richard Nixon pardoned the one-time Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, who had been convicted of jury-tampering—and who went on to support Nixon in the

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