Sunday, January 17, 2021

Pardons Я Us

 

Brother Johann Tetzel on the ass, right, dispensing indulgences to the wealthy in a German broadside poster, $32.83 from Amazon (the poster, not the indulgence). 

In the couple of months after the 2000 election, some scandal emerged over the flurry of last-minute pardons issued by outgoing president Bill Clinton, starting with the news that Democratic superdonor and Friend of Bill Ron Burkle had been agitating for a pardon for the junk-bond fraudster Mike Milken, and climaxing with the one given to the tax cheat and sanctions-violating commodities trader Marc Rich, who'd been evading justice living in Switzerland for the previous 17 years, in which the deputy attorney general—a guy you may have heard of called Eric Holder—and the president himself had shown extremely poor judgment at best (Rich's ex-wife Denise was a big-time donor to the Clinton Presidential Library, for one thing, and there's a 200-year-old rule that it's improper to pardon fugitives), allowing themselves to be manipulated by the lobbying of Rich's lawyers including Jack Quinn, who, having been White House counsel from 1995 to 1997, wasn't allowed to lobby for anybody at all until 2002. Also, Clinton issued some 31 pardons and commutations that hadn't gone through the normal processing, because the applications had arrived so late, and First Brothers Hugh Rodham and Roger Clinton had been taking some serious money to lobby the president themselves. Nevertheless Milken didn't get his pardon, and the applications the First Brothers had worked on weren't successful either, and Clinton went on to a very successful post-presidency, Holder eventually became attorney general, and even Quinn (whose Wikipedia bio doesn't even mention Rich) is now a legal analyst at CNN.

All of which seems extremely different from today's news reported by Michael Schmidt and Kenneth Vogel in The Times that there's a regular pardons market in the outgoing Trump administration:

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.

Yes, that's the same John Dowd who seems to have dangled a pardon in a call to General Mike Flynn's lawyer in an effor to fend off Flynn's decision to cooperate with Mueller in November 2017,

If, on the other hand, we have, there’s information that … implicates the president, then we’ve got a national security issue, or maybe a national security issue, I don’t know … some issue, we got to — we got to deal with, not only for the president, but for the country. So … uh … you know, then-then, you know, we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake of … protecting all our interests, if we can, without you having to give up any … confidential information. So, uhm, and if it’s the former, then, you know, remember what we’ve always said about the president and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains, but — well, in any event, uhm, let me know, and, uh, I appreciate your listening and taking the time. Thanks, pal.

and likely another one for Lev Parnas under similar circumstances in November 2019, though the Times article doesn't mention those.

Tolman posts on his success in lobbying for pardons (including for Charles Kushner) at his firm's website

The best story is about John Kiriakou, the former CIA operative and waterboarding proponent who Holder (him again!) busted back in 2012 (when this blog was very young) for outing the identity of some fellow agents; he seems to have paid $50,000 to Karen Giorno, a Florida conservative flack who joined the Trump campaign in October 2015, to lobby Trump for a pardon (so he could "carry a handgun and receive his pension," he says), with another $50K to be paid if he gets it: he also 

broached his quest for a pardon during a meeting last year with Mr. Giuliani and his associates on another subject at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which involved substantial alcohol.

When Mr. Giuliani went to the bathroom at one point, one of his confidants turned to Mr. Kiriakou and suggested Mr. Giuliani could help. But “it’s going to cost $2 million — he’s going to want two million bucks,” Mr. Kiriakou recalled the associate saying.

“I laughed. Two million bucks — are you out of your mind?” Mr. Kiriakou said. “Even if I had two million bucks, I wouldn’t spend it to recover a $700,000 pension.”

There's nothing illegal about most of this flagrant pardon selling as long as it's not bribery, which is quite illegal at least in theorty, especially if it's the president himself who's doing it, but this one, friends, sounds a little bit problematic, given that the president is Giuliani's client (and used to be Dowd's, of course) and has definitely been suspected of doing it through Jared Kushner's lawyer Abbe Lowell in a pardon bribery case that led to the DOJ investigation we learned about in December:

The documents made public Tuesday [1 December] indicate the Justice Department had mounted an investigation into the effort to secure a pardon. Documents unsealed by the chief judge on the D.C. district court show government investigators seized computers, phones and other equipment related to the investigation.

The court documents describe an investigation into what was alleged to be a "secret lobbying scheme" to contact senior White House officials to secure "a pardon or reprieve of sentence" for an unidentified individual.

This story is so not over.

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