17th January, 2021
Close associates of outgoing President Donald Trump have been raking in tens of thousands of dollars from wealthy felons seeking a pardon before the president steps down on Wednesday.
In his last tumultuous days in office, Trump has been pardoning close associates who were either facing criminal charges tied to his 2016 election or were already serving time.
The New York Times reported after interviews with more than three dozen lobbyists and attorneys that the the market for pardons has increased ever since it became apparent the president would be leaving office.
“The pardon lobbying heated up as it became clear that Mr. Trump had no recourse for challenging his election defeat, lobbyists and lawyers say,” the report states.
“One lobbyist, Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor who has been advising the White House on pardons and commutations, has monetized his clemency work, collecting tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly more, in recent weeks to lobby the White House for clemency for the son of a former Arkansas senator; the founder of the notorious online drug marketplace Silk Road; and a Manhattan socialite who pleaded guilty in a fraud scheme.”
The report also notes that Trump’s former personal attorney, John Dowd has been “marketing” himself to potential clients seeking pardons and that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani also has been implicated.
“A onetime top adviser to the Trump campaign was paid $50,000 to help seek a pardon for John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information, and agreed to a $50,000 bonus if the president granted it, according to a copy of an agreement,” the Times reported.
“And Mr. Kiriakou was separately told that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani could help him secure a pardon for $2 million. Mr. Kiriakou rejected the offer, but an associate, fearing that Mr. Giuliani was illegally selling pardons, alerted the F.B.I. Mr. Giuliani challenged this characterization.”
The NYT reported that after Mr. Trump’s impeachment for inciting his supporters before the deadly riot at the Capitol, and with Republican leaders turning on him, the pardon power remains one of the last and most likely outlets for quick unilateral action by an increasingly isolated, erratic president.
“He has suggested to aides he wants to take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of pardoning himself, though it was not clear whether he had broached the topic since the rampage.
“He has also discussed issuing pre-emptive pardons to his children, his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and Mr. Giuliani”.
A White House spokesman declined to comment, said NYT.
Legal scholars and some pardon lawyers shudder at the prospect of such moves, as well as the spectre of Mr. Trump’s friends and allies offering to pursue pardons for others in exchange for cash.