There are now so many pardon requests there’s a spreadsheet for them, but Trump’s so angry at the lost loyalty, the list could be smaller. Trump just sees no evil, even in a mirror. There may be a firing spree, among other irrational acts by a Trump now confronted by Putin and even McConnell’s acknowledgements of the election results.
Another name among the many under consideration for clemency: Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, who has come under scrutiny by investigators for his role in hush money payments.
Nowhere is the end of Trump's term more obvious than in the push for pardons.“It's turned crazy,” one person familiar with the efforts said. “There's a lot of activity.”Because Trump has shown little interest in using the Justice Department's Pardon Attorney system for assessing requests for executive clemency, petitioners are approaching the White House directly, calling or emailing senior adviser Jared Kushner, chief of staff Mark Meadows or White House counsel Pat Cipollone — when they can't get ahold of Trump himself.“Everyone assumed there's no formal process and they should reach out to the administration directly,” the person said. “Everyone hopes they have a friend of a friend of a friend of a cousin who they hope will get them to read their email.”
If there is a governing principle in who appears most likely to secure clemency, it is someone the President either knows personally or who has powerful connections lobbying on their behalf. At least one person working on behalf of clients seeking pardons said they hoped their loyalty to Trump over the past four years would pay off now.
As it happens, Trump is mulling the pardons at a juncture when loyalty appears his principal concern, complaining repeatedly over the past weeks that Republicans are deserting him when he needed them to help overturn the election results.He has largely frozen out those advisers and associates who do not seem on the same page. One person who used to speak to Trump regularly, but who delicately encouraged him to soften his post-election stance, no longer has his calls returned and hasn't heard from Trump in weeks.
In all, the President is considering pardons for more than two dozen people in his orbit whom he believes were targeted — or could be targeted in the future — for political ends. That's in addition to hundreds of requests from others who have approached the White House directly, and tens of thousands more whose petitions are pending at the Justice Department.
More about his “Apprentice” brand.
The likelihood of Trump firing top officials he’s been frustrated with or feels betrayed by is expected to increase over the holidays
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 16, 2020
While Trump’s frustrations with Attorney General Bill Barr boiled over in recent days, and Barr resigned on Monday, the president’s advisers hope he’s been persuaded against ousting Wray. Multiple current and former senior administration officials said firing Wray does not appear imminent, but they also point out that the president could make such a decision on a whim at any time. Indeed officials said they are prepared for Trump to go on a firing spree before leaving office next month.
“I wouldn’t take anything off the table in coming weeks,” the senior administration official said of personnel changes, as well as presidential pardons. The official said to expect “some more fairly significant terminations in the national security or intelligence community.”
It’s unclear how Trump’s complaints that Wray hasn’t done anything to investigate Biden’s son Hunter might affect his job given the announcement last week that the FBI has already been conducting such an investigation since 2018. Trump had criticized Barr for not publicly disclosing the investigation before the election.
— Dan Friedman (@dfriedman33) December 16, 2020
As The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg reported this week:
The scale of the Russian espionage operation appears to be large, said several individuals familiar with the matter. “This is looking very, very bad,” said one person. SolarWinds products are used by organizations across the world. They include all five branches of the U.S. military, the Pentagon, State Department, Justice Department, NASA, the Executive Office of the President and the National Security Agency, the world’s top electronic spy agency, according to the firm’s website.Its clients also include the top 10 U.S. telecommunications companies.“This is a big deal, and given what we now know about where breaches happened, I’m expecting the scope to grow as more logs are reviewed,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. “When an aggressive group like this gets an open sesame to many desirable systems, they are going to use it widely.”
The penetration rekindles long-running questions about Trump’s approach to Russia — questions that have spanned his entire presidency and now threaten to cast a pall over his final days in office. While the U.S. government writ large has taken significant steps and imposed many sanctions on Russia, there are plenty of indications that these things were done despite Trump rather than because of him.Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on Russia’s responsibility for the 2016 election hacks, the alleged targeting of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and, reportedly, the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain. He also, most recently, declined to weigh in on another poisoning tied to the Kremlin: that of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.The Post and others have also reported that Trump has such a visceral reaction to bad news involving Russia that aides try to avoid even bringing it to his attention. Former White House national security adviser John Bolton has said he has “scars from bringing up things about Russia that [Trump] probably didn’t want to hear.”Thus far, Trump’s see-no-evil approach seems to be carrying the day. He has yet to respond to the news of the hack, which is significant in and of itself. Bolton’s replacement as national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, cut short a European vacation to return to Washington and examine the situation.
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 16, 2020
The Trump Organization must turn over documents related to a property under investigation by New York’s attorney general, following allegations that the president and associates inflated assets to obtain millions of dollars in tax benefits.Judge Arthur Engoron of the New York County State Supreme Court ruled the state’s Attorney General Letitia James be provided with documents between Ralph Mastromanaco, an engineer who worked with the company on Seven Springs Estate, and the Trump Organization.“Once again, justice and the rule of law prevailed,” the attorney general said in a statement. “We will immediately move to ensure that the Trump Organization complies with the court’s order and submits records related to our investigation. My office's ongoing investigation will continue, as we continue to follow the facts wherever they may lead.”The 212-acre Westchester estate is among four properties facing a broad investigation into whether the president’s son Eric Trump and associates had inflated assets, among a suite of allegations facing the Trump family, including an ongoing criminal probe from Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, as the president prepares to leave office.Judge Engoron ruled that the company can’t rely on attorney-client privilege to shield the documents from the state attorney general.
— Garry J. Wise (@wiselaw) December 16, 2020
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) December 15, 2020