When Joe Biden was first named the winner of the election, Palmer Report urged everyone to look past Donald Trump’s dead-end antics to magically overturn the results, and instead focus on what Trump might be doing behind the scenes to try to raise cash for his eventual criminal trial defense team. One of the things we suggested he might try to do: sell pardons for cash.
Now CNN’s John Harwood is reporting this: “The Justice Department is investigating a potential crime related to funneling money to the White House in exchange for a presidential pardon, according to a court record unsealed on Tuesday by the chief judge of the DC District Court.”
The name of the person trying to buy the pardon has not yet been unsealed, but the DOJ clearly knows who this person is. And of course Donald Trump is the one who tried to sell the pardon, since he’s the only one in the White House with pardon power.
It’s not clear when this payment happened. Trump has pardoned several friends and allies over the past four years. This week he finally began pardoning his own co-conspirators. But it’s also not clear if the target of this criminal probe actually received the pardon, meaning it could be anybody.
The identity of the person will come out in due time. What’s notable here is that the DOJ is now going public with this by unsealing it, in what feels like an effort to make it more difficult for Trump to continue corruptly pardoning people in his final days in office.
In addition to the timing, it’s also notable that the DOJ is specifying that the whole thing was a criminal act. It’s a reminder that pardons aren’t magic wands, and that you really can get in legal trouble if a pardon is obtained illegally. Finally, it’s notable that Bill Barr is apparently either unwilling or unable to stop this DOJ investigation from going forward. The DOJ now appears to be increasingly acting of its own accord, rather than being under Barr’s corrupt control.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report