People close to President Donald Trump have been able to pocket tens of thousands of dollars from convicts seeking pardons from President Donald Trump, the New York Times reported. The efforts to obtain pardons from the outgoing president have only grown more feverish recently after it became clear Trump had no way to challenge his loss to President-elect Joe Biden. Those who have managed to turn pardon-lobbying into a lucrative business are selling their ability to get the ear of the president who is known to care little about protocol.
Axios later reported that at least 10 federal criminals have hired lobbyists since the November election to try to secure a pardon before Trump leaves the White House. But that’s not saying much because the campaigning and lobbying for pardons usually takes place behind closed doors and not necessarily through registered lobbyists. Still, the number is double what it was in the last days of President Barack Obama’s administration. Lobbyists have been focusing their efforts on the White House rather than the Justice Department, as is usually the way official bids for pardons are handled. Trump is widely expected to issue lots of pardons in his final days. There’s nothing illegal about getting paid to lobby for a pardon and there’s no evidence anyone has offered to pay Trump directly, which could be considered bribery.
Former U.S. attorney Brett Tolman has charged tens of thousands of dollars for his efforts to seek pardons for several people. Trump’s former attorney John Dowd has also pocketed “tens of thousands of dollars from a wealthy felon and advising him and other potential clients to leverage Mr. Trump’s grievances about the justice system,” reports the New York Times. A former top adviser to Trump’s campaign was paid $50,000 to help obtain a pardon for John Kiriakou, a former CIA intelligence officer who was convicted of disclosing classified information in 2012. The former adviser would get a $50,000 bonus if the pardon was granted, according to a written agreement.
In one of the most explosive bits of the Times story, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, said the former mayor could help get a pardon but it would cost $2 million. “I laughed. Two million bucks—are you out of your mind?” Kiriakou said. “Even if I had two million bucks, I wouldn’t spend it to recover a $700,000 pension.” Giuliani denies that ever happened.
Support work like this for just $1
Slate is covering the stories that matter to you. Become a Slate Plus member to support our work. Your first month is only $1.