As anyone who knows anything about Trump could have told you, the grift will never end. President Trump is telling his supporters and donors he wants to collect $2 billion for a presidential library and museum in Florida. But that isn't the only income stream Trump has activated. NY Times reporters Michael Schmidt and Ken Vogel focused on the handsomely remunerative pardons-for-sale market that marks the last few days on the Trump Regime. They noted that as the most corrupt-ever occupant of the White House "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. The brisk market for pardons reflects the access peddling that has defined Mr. Trump’s presidency as well as his unorthodox approach to exercising unchecked presidential clemency powers. Pardons and commutations are intended to show mercy to deserving recipients, but Mr. Trump has used many of them to reward personal or political allies."
Who could have guessed? "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 [a Republican state legislator and bribe-taker] of a former Arkansas senator [Tim Hutchinson]; the founder of the notorious online drug marketplace Silk Road; and a Manhattan socialite who pleaded guilty in a fraud scheme." And Trump's former personal lawyer, John Dowd-- always the sleazy scumbag in a suit and tie-- "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."
Trump is also expected to pardon a wide-range of criminal associates from Ivanka, Jared, Don Jr and Fredo to Giuliani and several of his political hatchet men and operatives... not to mention, of course, the biggest criminal of all: himself.
Legal scholars and some pardon lawyers shudder at the prospect of such moves, as well as the specter of Mr. Trump’s friends and allies offering to pursue pardons for others in exchange for cash.
“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,” said Margaret Love, who ran the Justice Department’s clemency process from 1990 until 1997 as the United States pardon attorney.
There are few historical parallels. Perhaps the closest occurred in the final hours of Bill Clinton’s administration when he issued 170 pardons and commutations, some of which went to people who paid six-figure sums to his family and associates. But even Mr. Clinton, who was seen as flouting protocols, mostly rewarded people who had gone through an intensive Justice Department review process intended to identify and vet the most deserving recipients from among thousands of clemency applications.
Mr. Trump has shunned that process more than any recent president, creating an ad hoc system in the White House that Mr. Kushner has had significant influence over and has relied on input from an informal network of outside advisers, including Mr. Tolman. That system favors pardon seekers who have connections to Mr. Trump or his team, or who pay someone who does, said pardon lawyers who have worked for years through the Justice Department system.
Few regulations or disclosure requirements govern presidential clemency grants or lobbying for them, particularly by lawyers, and there is nothing illegal about Trump associates being paid to lobby for clemency. Any explicit offers of payment to the president in return could be investigated as possible violations of bribery laws; no evidence has emerged that Mr. Trump was offered money in exchange for a pardon.
Nanette Barragan was very clear after tweeting this morning. "Bottom line," she just told me, "is we can’t allow presidents to issue pardons for their own criminal conduct or that of criminal conduct they encourage and incite. If we have to pass legislation to that effect then we must. It’s absurd that anyone would have complete power to pardon people for crimes they encourage or participate in and when it’s to their benefit. I’m pretty sure a president's pardon power was not intended for that purpose. A president is not above the law."
...Weeks after stepping down as the president’s lawyer in 2018, Mr. Dowd began marketing himself as a potential conduit for pardons. Mr. Dowd told prospective clients he could help them receive pardons because of his access to Mr. Trump and top aides like Mr. Kushner.
Mr. Dowd, who as the president’s lawyer had dangled a pardon to stop Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser from cooperating with investigators, had continued to informally advise Mr. Trump. He told would-be clients and their representatives that the president was likely to look favorably on petitioners who were investigated by federal prosecutors in Manhattan or tarnished by perceived leaks from the F.B.I. At the time, Mr. Trump was seeking to undermine those groups because they were investigating his conduct.
After leaving the Trump legal team, Mr. Dowd began representing William T. Walters, a wealthy sports gambler in Las Vegas convicted of insider trading. Around that time, Mr. Dowd told Mr. Walters and others that he would soon obtain a pardon for his client using his access to the White House and because Mr. Walters had been investigated by prosecutors in Manhattan and the F.B.I.
Mr. Walters paid Mr. Dowd tens of thousands of dollars, but a pardon has yet to materialize.
Former Congressman, Alan Grayson, one of Congress' deep thinkers, feels like the absolute pardon power of presidents has outworn whatever usefulness it once had. He told me this afternoon that "Trump has been bent upon abusing every power he had, including this one. He was never going to use it to right wrongs, only to make wrongs wronger. Historically, the power to pardon is a vestige of absolute monarchy-- if the King said that someone was forgiven, no one could contradict him. Why the Founders felt some need to invest the Presidency with that kind of authority is anyone’s guess. The Supreme Court, in one of its weaker decisions, said that neither Congress nor the courts could regulate that authority. Which means that the President could sell pardons to the highest bidder, like the Catholic Church’s 'indulgences' in the Middle Ages. I understand how hard it is to change the Constitution, but this part doesn’t make much sense anymore-- if it ever did." Let's hope Grayson decides to take on Marco Rubio next year and return to Congress, where reform-oriented members miss his brilliance and outspoken nature.