Friday, May 19, 2023

You Never Talk to Rudy About a Pardon

Donald and Rudes at the groundbreaking of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Columbus Circle in 1995, the year (The New York Times notes) he would declare losses of $915.7 million in his federal tax return. Photo by Francis Specker/New York Post Archives, via NYP Holdings, Inc., via Getty Images.

A note on Rudolph and the claim of his rape victim Noelle Dunphy that he told her he was selling presidential pardons at two million dollars a pop and then splitting the proceeds with the president: I remembered some talk of pardon lobbying among the scandals of Trump's last month in office—of people taking money to intercede with Trump for a pardon, with no guarantees—in the informal process, run by Jared Kushner, of doling them out to Trump allies like Manafort and Stone, somehow including Kushner's father, and was Giuliani involved in that?

In fact I did a pretty good post myself about it at the time, which repays rereading (especially the bit about Trump's former personal attorney John Dowd, who also seems to have been in charge of offering pardons to criminals from Mike Flynn to Lev Parnas in exchange for silence on the subject of their activities on Trump's behalf), and sure enough, there was Giuliani in the mix, marketing a pardon to John Kiriakou, the CIA officer who'd been busted for outing the name of a fellow officer involved in the torture of an Al-Qa'eda fighter captured in Pakistan in 2002, for which he served 30 months in 2013-15. What's especially interesting right now is Giuliani's price tag:

[Kiriakou] 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 theory, 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. 

Indeed. Three years later, it looks less over than ever. I love the detail about its being the "associate" who makes the offer, while Rudy's in the bathroom. In the movie, let's make that guy Bernie Kerik. The story is even more gangsterish in the version Kiriakou has given Amy Goodman of Democracy Now in an interview published yesterday (I wasn't the only person remembering this). For one thing, it wasn't a "meeting on another subject": it was absolutely about the pardon. He says,

I was able to get through to one of Giuliani’s associates or assistants, and he suggested that we meet at the Trump Hotel here in Washington, D.C., the first week of January 2021. Interestingly enough, he said that we had to meet at noon because the mayor enjoyed a drink or two — or five — earlier in the day, and by 2:00 we wouldn’t be able to have much of a conversation. So we met at 2 — at 12:00, rather, at the Trump Hotel.

It was several of us. It was Giuliani, his assistant, a second person and my attorney and me. And we sat there and made idle chitchat for 10 minutes. And finally, I said, “So, Mr. Mayor, there’s this issue of a pardon.” And Giuliani immediately stood up and said he needed to use the men’s room, and he walked away. And I said to the aide, “What just happened?” And he said, “You never talk to Rudy about a pardon. You talk to me about a pardon, and I’ll talk to Rudy.” I said, “OK, that’s fine.”

And he said, “Rudy is going to want $2 million.” And I laughed...

Now as far as Noelle Dunphy and her lawsuit are concerned, Kiriakou's story isn't exactly proof that she's telling the truth, as some commenter is undoubtedly going to tell us. For one thing, she could have gotten the story from The New York Times, the same way I did, and added the part about Trump taking the 50% cut of her own accord. But I think there's good reason to think it is true, and Trump and Giuliani really were conspiring to monetize the pardon power, which would, as I was saying, be extremely illegal. There's another detail in which Kiriakou corroborates what Dunphy says in the complaint:

Dunphy: He also asked Ms. Dunphy if she knew anyone in need of a pardon, telling her that he was selling pardons for $2 million, which he and President Trump would split. He told Ms. Dunphy that she could refer individuals seeking pardons to him, so long as they did not go through “the normal channels” of the Office of the Pardon Attorney, because correspondence going to that office would be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. 

Kiriakou: Frankly, this lawsuit is the first that I had heard that money was supposed to be split with President Trump. I will say that Giuliani’s aide told me not to bother going to the website of the Office of the U.S. Pardon Attorney and applying online. He said, “We’re going to do this quietly, privately, behind the scenes.” And I said, “That’s fine. I know that’s the way things work in Washington.” So I never applied for the pardon officially, formally, with the Office of the U.S. Pardon Attorney.

Yeah, I have no doubt whatever. I think in a way I'd rather have this aspect of the Trump presidency investigated and indicted than any other (with the exception, perhaps, of the grift operations mounted against his own supporters, which Jack Smith is reportedly looking at in the January 6 context); it shows exactly who he and his friends really are.

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