Criminal Justice

Flurry of Trump pardons follows lobbying by well-connected lawyers

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President Donald Trump. Photo from

President Donald Trump pardoned 73 people and commuted the sentences of 70 others late Tuesday in a move that favored some of his associates and supporters, including former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Trump granted a full pardon to Bannon after he was charged with defrauding donors to an online crowdfunding campaign for the border wall, report the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico and the National Law Journal. A White House press release is here.

Also pardoned was former Nixon Peabody partner David Tamman, according to the National Law Journal. Tamman was convicted for altering financial documents that were the subject of a federal investigation. Prosecutors had alleged that Tamman helped hide a Ponzi scheme by his client, John Farahi, the founder of NewPoint Financial Services. Tamman had been represented on appeal by Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School who represented Trump in his first impeachment trial.

Others granted pardons include GOP donor Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty to violating lobbying laws; rapper Lil Wayne, convicted on a gun charge; Republican former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona, convicted in connection with a bribery scheme; Republican former U.S. Rep. Robert Hayes of North Carolina, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI; and Republican former U.S. Rep. Duke Cunningham of California, who pleaded guilty to taking bribes from military contractors.

Those granted commutations include Democratic former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, convicted of corruption charges; rapper Kodak Black, convicted for making a false statement; and professional gambler Billy Walters, convicted for insider trading. Several drug defendants serving long sentences also received commutations.

The clemency grants followed lobbying by well-connected lobbyists and lawyers taking advantage of a lucrative market for pardons. The New York Times reports on the phenomenon.

According to the New York Times, these lawyers collected money to lobby Trump on pardons:

• Brett Tolman, a former Utah U.S. attorney who has advised the White House on pardons and commutations. On his website, Tolman said he has represented many people seeking clemency, some of them pro bono. The website credits him with helping secure clemency for three people, including Charles Kushner, the father of Trump adviser Jared Kushner. Charles Kushner had pleaded guilty in 2004 to tax evasion, witness tampering and lying to the Federal Election Commission, according to the New York Times.

• John Dowd, Trump’s former personal lawyer who represented Trump during the special counsel probe. Dowd represented Walters, the sports gambler who won a sentence commutation Tuesday.

According to the New York Times, is it not illegal for Trump associates to lobby for clemency, and there are few regulations or disclosure requirements that apply to their work.

But Margaret Love, who oversaw the Department of Justice’s clemency process from 1990 until 1997, criticized the lobbying process in an interview with the New York Times.

“This kind of off-books influence peddling, special-privilege system denies consideration to the hundreds of ordinary people who have obediently lined up as required by Justice Department rules, and is a basic violation of the longstanding effort to make this process at least look fair,” she said.

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