Money Funnel To Lobby For Trump Presidential Pardons Uncovered

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A new report from The New York Times reveals that a slew of individuals with connections to outgoing President Donald Trump have been accepting at least tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for efforts to lobby Trump and his administration for presidential pardons. Trump has already granted pardons to political allies and similarly well-connected individuals like Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, and Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s father, Charles.

Potential pardon recipients whose cases have been at the center of this influence-selling operation include “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 Times explains, and those accepting the cash range from former federal prosecutor Brett Tolman to former Trump lawyer John Dowd.

Strictly speaking, there’s nothing illegal about the efforts to lobby the outgoing president for pardons in exchange for cash, although in theory, the issue could be a subject of future legislation meant to deal with the corruption of the Trump era. In the recent past, presidents simply hadn’t politicized the presidential pardon process to the extent that Trump has done so. Margaret Love, who served as the United States pardon attorney at the Justice Department for most of the 1990s, said that 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.”

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, another one of the individuals whose cases are at the center of the pardon lobbying efforts, paid former Trump campaign adviser Karen Giorno $50,000 in exchange for lobbying for a pardon — although Giorno says that she “never spoke to Mr. Trump directly about Mr. Kiriakou, and did not lobby anyone in his administration for a pardon,” in the Times description. Instead, she “said that in meetings with senior administration officials, she tried “to connect the dots” between the people and techniques involved in Mr. Kiriakou’s prosecution and those involved in the special counsel investigation then dogging Mr. Trump’s presidency,” according to the Times.

Kiriakou says that he also brought up the subject of lobbying for a pardon while meeting with top Trump defender Rudy Giuliani at Trump’s D.C. hotel last year. At one point, when Giuliani stepped out, Kiriakou says that one of his associates said that Giuliani was “going to want two million bucks” in exchange for lobbying for a presidential pardon. Kiriakou relayed the story to friend and former air marshal Robert J. MacLean, who subsequently alerted the FBI to the possibility that Giuliani was essentially selling pardons. Giuliani said that “did not remember meeting with Mr. Kiriakou and that none of his associates would offer his services as a pardon broker” because of his refusal to work on clemency cases while representing Trump, according to the Times description.

Reportedly, Trump has considered issuing a self-pardon before leaving office, although it’s unclear whether such a move could stand up in court.