Nothing Grifty About Trump's Coming Pardon-Palooza, No He'd Never!
It's pardon-thirty! You knew it was coming, and now the moment has finally arrived. Time to rain that sweet, sweet clemency down on those deserving of presidential mercy. And by "deserving" we mean "able to cough up cash to some asshole in Trump's orbit willing to get their names on the list." (Allegedly!)
"Everything is a transaction. He likes pardons because it is unilateral. And he likes doing favors for people he thinks will owe him," a source told CNN, which was first to report that the pardon--palooza was scheduled for Tuesday, or possibly even today.
The Post confirmed the story, writing that Trump hunkered down with a group of advisors including Jared and Ivanka on Sunday "for a significant amount of the day" and that "the president was personally engaged with the details of specific cases." Because Poppy Trump is known for his attention to detail and scrupulous accuracy!
Apparently they're still debating preemptive pardons for the president's worthless kids, who haven't been charged with anything yet, as well as his loony lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is under investigation for all the things, and former campaign manager Steve Bannon, who was arrested by the post office for fraud.
There's also the issue of a pardon for Trump himself, which got more complicated after he incited a riot and got himself impeached again. According to the Post, giving himself a get-out-of-jail-free card "could anger Senate Republicans preparing to serve as key jurors at Trump's impeachment trial, and would amount to an admission of guilt that could be used against Trump in potential civil litigation related to the Capitol attack." There's also the small matter that the Justice Department appears to be sticking by its stance, articulated in a 1974 memo from the Office of Legal Counsel, that "Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself." Although it's entirely possible that they dummied up a new one for the file that said, "JK LOL, actually, it's totally cool."
In a normal administration, there's a process to vet pardons through the Justice Department. Presidents don't just dole them out after consulting with their kids and a coterie of hangers on. Pardon recipients have to both request clemency and accept responsibility for their crimes. And in fewer than 48 hours, that will once again be the case.
The New York Times served up the gnarliest pardon story of the bunch, with the usual suspects sticking their faces all the way into that trough for one last grift. There's Rudy Giuliani, of course, talking pardons and getting shitfaced at the Trump Hotel in DC with former CIA operative John Kiriakou, who was sentenced to 30 months in jail in 2012 after leaking the name of a colleague to a reporter.
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."
Giuliani denies this version of events, telling the Times that he's not taking money to lobby the president, because "It's like a conflict of interest," adding later "I have enough money. I'm not starving." About that ...
Kiriakou went on to hire former Trump campaign advisor Karen Giorno, who he says bragged about her access to the president and promised to lobby the White House in exchange for $50,000 upfront, plus another $50,000 if the pardon actually went through. So far it hasn't, perhaps because purported whistleblowers are not a favored class of felon in this White House.
Perennial Trumpland lawyer John "Purple Comic Sans" Dowd also makes an appearance, with the Times reporting that he started pitching himself to pardon-seekers based on his access to Trump and Kushner immediately after leaving the White House in 2018.
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.
Robert Mueller superfans will remember that Dowd left a voicemail for Michael Flynn dangling a pardon in the Mueller investigation.
But the chutzpah award goes to former federal prosecutor Brett Tolman, who is simultaneously "advising" the White House on pardons and offering his services to clients seeking those pardons. Tolman racked up tens of thousands of dollars in fees from "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."
"I've represented many to get clemency. Some have been paying clients, many have been pro-Bono. I'm proud of my team's clemency work and #cjreform efforts," Tolman tweeted. (Yes, he tweeted "pro-Bono." Because that's how real lawyers write Latin.) And while everyone deserves competent representation, it's a bit much to pretend that you're doing a public service by taking cash off the guy who ran the world's largest darknet drug market and was implicated in a murder-for-hire scheme which netted him life plus 40 years without the possibility of parole.
Bringing up the rear, Fox News is out this morning with the scoop that Lil Wayne is on the pardon list. The rapper and former "Apprentice" contestant is due to be sentenced January 28 on gun charges, but apparently that hearing will be canceled. Probably a coincidence that he endorsed Trump's re-election bid, right?
Wednesday cannot get here soon enough.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.