A Sunday report from The New York Times spotlights an alleged pay-for-pardon scheme in Donald Trump's White House. According to the publication, Trump's allies have collected at least tens of thousands of dollars from wealthy associates and felons who are seeking pardons.
According to the more than three dozen lawyers and lobbyists interviewed by the publication, Trump's pardoning increased after the head of state realized there is no path for him to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Among the people seeking pardons are Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, a Manhattan socialite involved in a fraud scheme, and the son of a former Arkansas senator.
"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," the report read.
In one instance, a former Trump campaign adviser was allegedly paid $50,000 to help secure a pardon for former CIA officer John Kiriakou. The former agent was allegedly also offered a pardon if he paid $2 million to the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Margaret Love, who ran the Justice Department's clemency process from 1990 to 1997, slammed the alleged plot and argued that it undermined the "longstanding effort" to ensure fairness in the process.
Still, The New York Times claimed that it is not illegal for Trump associates to receive payment 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."
As reported by CNN, the Department of Justice is allegedly investigating a potential White House pardon bribery scheme. The publication pointed to court records that were unsealed in federal court last month. Notably, the records suggested Trump's White House might be receiving money in exchange for presidential pardons. At the time, the DOJ claimed no government official was ever the subject or target of the investigation revealed in the filing.
Trump's pardons have received a great deal of scrutiny. In particular, his decision to pardon the four Blackwater mercenaries involved in the Nisour Square, Baghdad massacre in 2007 fueled rumors that he is planning to start a private army — possibly linked to Blackwater founder Erik Prince.