Did Giuliani and Donald Trump really offer to sell pardons?:
A lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani claims that he and the former president offered to sell pardons for millions.
If true, it might be the largest scandal with which Trump has ever been associated.
What the Heck Happened?
A bombshell lawsuit filed last week against former New York Mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani had several shocking accusations against Giuliani, including that he sexually harassed the plaintiff, that he made racist and antisemitic remarks, and he was frequently intoxicated, including during morning hours.
But one accusation alleges actual high crimes: Giuliani discussed selling presidential pardons for $2 million.
If that happened, it would go down as not only the biggest of Trump’s many scandals, and indeed one of the greatest scandals in American history, mainly if Donald Trump collected money for pardons.
But it’s a long way from proof that such a thing happened.
The suit was filed by a woman named Noelle Dunphy, who formerly worked for the former mayor while he was working as Trump’s attorney. One paragraph in the lawsuit makes an accusation of something big:
“[Giuliani] 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.”
Trump pardoned 75 people and commuted the sentences of 70 others in the final days of his presidency, with prominent recipients including Russiagate figures Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, and Roger Stone, his former advisor Steve Bannon, and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Trump even grated clemency to two former Democratic officials convicted of corruption charges, former Illinois gov. Rod Blagojevich and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Did Donald Trump Do It?
Did Donald Trump really sell pardons, or at least propose doing so?
Again, we do not have any evidence of that beyond that one paragraph in this lawsuit.
It is possible that it’s true. It’s also possible that Giuliani was talking nonsense while in a drunken stupor, which has certainly been known to happen in recent years. And considering how Giuliani has been acting for the last several years, it might not be plausible that he and Trump could have pulled off a scheme of accepting bribes from dozens of people, without anyone finding out about it for more than two years.
As pointed out by The New Republic, former Attorney General William Barr said in an interview this week, when asked about the bribery allegation, “Uh, I’m skeptical about that. I don’t think Rudy Giuliani would do that. I hope he wouldn’t, but I don’t know.” The same piece also cited reports from the time that a market had emerged for those seeking pardons to pay those close to Trump “fees” in order to help deliver a pardon.
John Kiriakou, who was convicted years ago of selling classified information, told a story in an interview this week about an episode in which he met with Giuliani and an aide at the Trump Hotel in Washington, and the aide told him that “Rudy’s gonna want $2 million.” Kiriakou did not pay the money and was not pardoned.
“If Dunphy’s presentation of her interactions with Giuliani is accurate, her depiction of Giuliani’s propensity for drunkenness and self-aggrandizement tends to diminish the idea that he and Trump had an agreement on granting pardons for cash. The Giuliani documented in the lawsuit wants constantly to impress Dunphy; perhaps any mention of pardons occurred in that same vein,” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote in an analysis this week. “If Giuliani wasn’t simply blowing smoke — as the Kiriakou anecdote suggests — the implications are far more serious.”
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.