Day 1,459: Clemency for sale: Trump to issue more than 100 pardons on Tuesday, as cronies peddle access for cash

3 min readJan 18, 2021

With less than 72 hours left in Donald Trump’s time in office, there is apparently one last corrupt act to undertake by his team: dollars for clemency.

According to a report by the New York Times, the Trump team is raking in cash, selling indirect access to Trump in his final days. The pitch from those currently in or once in Trump’s inner orbit: pay tens of thousand of dollars to leverage connections for a pardon.

As President Trump prepares to leave office in days, a lucrative market for pardons is coming to a head, with some of his allies collecting fees from wealthy felons or their associates to push the White House for clemency, according to documents and interviews with more than three dozen lobbyists and lawyers.

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.

Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer John M. Dowd has marketed himself to convicted felons as someone who could secure pardons because of his close relationship with the president, accepting 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.

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.

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.

A corroborating report shows that Trump is ready to pardon predominately the wealthy in two days.

Trump has reportedly already teed up 100 pardons for Tuesday. Again, quid pro quo is expected to be a significant factor, as he prepares to issue “a major batch of clemency actions that includes white collar criminals, high-profile rappers and others,” just hours before he leaves office.

The expectation among allies is that Trump will issue pardons that he could benefit from post presidency.

“Everything is a transaction. He likes pardons because it is unilateral. And he likes doing favors for people he thinks will owe him,” one source familiar with the matter said.

Trump has taken and is taking the pardon power — one of a president’s most powerful unilateral acts meant to show mercy or forgiveness to deserving recipients — and is doing what he’s done to nearly everything else in office: corrupt it for personal gain.

1,459 days in, 3 to go

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