Trump associates being paid huge sums to secure pardons in final days – report

Various allies of the president have been marketing themselves as lobbyists for US leader’s clemency powers, NY Times reports; one person claims Giuliani wanted $2 million to help

US President Donald Trump looks on after delivering an update on 'Operation Warp Speed' in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on November 13, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)
US President Donald Trump looks on after delivering an update on 'Operation Warp Speed' in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on November 13, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

In the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency, numerous allies of the American leader are raking in tens of thousands of dollars to lobby for pardons before he leaves office, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper named several associates of the president as having received enormous sums from those seeking reprieves for various offenses, among them his former personal lawyer John Dowd, and Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor who is advising Trump on pardons. Each had been given tens of thousands of dollars for lobbying services.

It also cited John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information, as alleging that associates of Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani had told him that he could secure a pardon for $2 million, an offer he refused. It said Giuliani challenged the claim.

The article named a number of others with access to the president as advertising their connections and ability to secure pardons, though it was not clear whether they were paid by anyone to do so.

Attorney John Dowd at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, May 23, 2007. (Tim SLOAN/AFP)

Though the Times noted that Trump himself could be investigated for bribery if he received money for pardons, lobbying him on the matter is a fairly unregulated affair.

“This kind of off-books influence peddling, special-privilege system denies consideration to the hundreds of ordinary people who have obediently lined up as required by Justice Department rules, and is a basic violation of the longstanding effort to make this process at least look fair,” Margaret Love, a former official in the Justice Department who was in charge of clemency requests in the 1990s, told the Times.

Trump is seen as having made decisions on pardons rather capriciously throughout his presidency, not basing his decisions on the recommendations of various committees and Justice Department reviews, as past presidents have.

In late December, the president pardoned a host of former aides and associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court in Washington, DC, June 15, 2018. (Brendan Smialowski/ AFP)

As Trump continues to face legal challenges, the prospect that he may try to pardon himself, other family members or senior aides has remained the subject of internal White House discussion.

Trump’s pardons of Flynn, Manafort, Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos, and Alex Van Der Zwaan — who all pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow during the 2016 election — angered the Russia meddling investigators.

They were “what you would expect to get if you gave the pardon power to a mob boss,” said Andrew Weissman, one of the lead investigators on the Mueller team.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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