The “market” for pardons — which cuts out the poor and those not politically connected — reflects the “access peddling that has defined” Trump’s presidency, as well as his unorthodox use of his clemency powers to reward friends, the Times noted.
Trump is expected to issue 100 pardons and sentence commutations on Tuesday, CNN reported.
Presidential pardons are typically meted out in compassion to those who have more than served a just penalty, or who may have been too-harshly treated by the criminal justice system.
Trump has used his power to reward those with powerful connections, as well as friends and allies — including those who may harbor damning evidence about his own behavior.
The lucrative push for pardons has hit high gear just days before Trump is to leave office, according to the Times report, which was based on documents and interviews with more than three dozen lawyers and lobbyists.
One lobbyist, Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor with ties to the White House, collected at least tens of thousands of dollars in the last weeks to push the White House for clemency for the son of a former Arkansas senator, the founder of the online drug marketplace Silk Road, and a Manhattan socialite, according to the Times.
A former adviser to the Trump campaign was paid $50,000 to seek a pardon for former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who was convicted of illegally leaking classified information, the newspaper reported. The adviser was to collect an additional $50,000 bonus if the president came through with the pardon, according to a copy of an agreement obtained by the Times.
Kiriakou was also told that Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, could get a pardon for him for $2 million, the Times reported. Giuliani denied that claim.
Trump has reportedly been considering granting preemptive pardons for his children, his son-in-law Jared Kushner (he already pardoned Jared’s father, Charles Kushner, for tax evasion), Giuliani — and even for himself.
Officials are also fearful he could issue blanket pardons to his supporters who stormed the Capitol Jan. 6.
An attorney for Jacob Anthony Chansley, the shirtless, horned, conspiracy theory-touting U.S. Capitol rioter, is calling for a pardon from Trump because he says his client was inspired by the president to take action.
In a long list of shocking earlier decisions, Trump has already pardoned felons in his campaign or administration, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, and his one-time national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone, whom the president pardoned after he was convicted of seven felonies, admitted he had information that could have hurt the president, and appeared to be holding out until he got his pardon.
The president “knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him,” Stone told NBC journalist Howard Fineman earlier this year. “It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”
Those pardoned have also included war criminals and law enforcement officers who violated civil rights.