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It is U.S. President Donald Trump's recent pardon of Arpaio that currently is spurring heated debate, as it raises fundamental questions about the presidential pardon power that has been a part of U.S. policymaking from the country's birth.In the U.S. Constitution – Article II, Section 2 – America's founders gave a similar power to the president, but with two key limitations.During Barack Obama's presidency, both were prominent figures in the racist "birther" movement that insisted Obama was born outside the U.S., and therefore was not entitled to be president.Unsurprisingly, given its purely ideological basis, Arpaio's pardon was not reviewed in advance by the U.S. Justice Department, as has become customary over the years. Indeed, the DOJ rushed to distance itself from the decision, highlighting how easily Trump can use (or not use) the pardon power to settle his many scores: It is virtually the only power within the criminal justice system that the president can exercise unilaterally. To be sure, Trump's pardon of Arpaio has not created a legal basis for impunity; the pardon power's constitutional limitations prevent that. The pardon power is like a loaded gun.
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