Note: this reading group was written by an anonymous champion of the law.

Last week, President Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for defying a court order. The subsequent public uproar brought new life to the impeachment movement, with some claiming that this was Trump’s most impeachable offense yet. So, this week, we’ll take a look at the basics of presidential pardons, the story of Joe Arpaio, and discuss where we think Trump stands in a long history of pardon-related controversies.

All Readings

(1) Explainer on presidential pardon power.

(2) Arpaio’s unauthorized immigration practices.

(3) An impeachable offense?

A couple of infamous past pardons:

(4) President Ford’s Nixon pardon (and what Trump could learn from it).

(5) President Clinton’s Marc Rich pardon for financial crimes.


“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

We’ve discussed many issues, ideas, events (historical and current) during this reading group. Quite often, we explore these topics at top-down level in order to digest their big ideas more easily. But through this approach we can gloss over the personal experiences of those who endured or instigated these events.

Therefore, I’d like to do something a little different for this reading group. I’d like each person to pick a significant event or movement in history. Then, find a couple primary sources that shed light on the personal experience of an individual who lived through the event. Feel free to pick a topic that you are very knowledgeable about (so that you are aware of the historical context) or know nothing about (so that your impression of the experience isn’t tampered by previous bias). If you’d like, you can focus on current events, as long as the personal experience you investigate is far removed from our own as 21st century progressive millennials. …


Humans are categorizing machines. Try this exercise: the next time you see a person on the street, try and guess aspects of their personality or background (gut reactions only — don’t think too hard about it).

Maybe you saw an Asian male walking on Berkeley’s campus and inferred that he’s a math major. Naturally, we’d say that your inference was rooted in the stereotype that Asians are good at math. …

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