Trump’s already profited from pardon recipients

Why bribe the White House when you can just book rooms or headline a brunch?

On Tuesday, a federal judge unsealed court documents that revealed the Justice Department is investigating if representatives of a convict tried to bribe White House officials in hopes of a pardon or commutation.

While details of the alleged scheme were sparse in the redacted memorandum, 1100 Pennsylvania has reported previously that at least six recipients of pardons or commutations from Trump also have paid the president via his businesses or otherwise helped him profit (analysis performed by comparing DOJ’s lists of pardon and commutation recipients with previous newsletter issues and tweets).

While there’s no public evidence that these appearances are explicit quid pro quos or thank yous, they do show that when the president retains his business interests, it’s easy for people wanting his benevolence or who’ve already enjoyed it to help Trump’s bottom line without having to resort to bribes.

The trend may continue as well. Yesterday Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt reported for The New York Times that Trump’s discussed pre-emptive pardons for Trump Hotel D.C. regular Rudy Giuliani (and also for hotel co-owners Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump).

Meanwhile, on Monday an “investigator” for the imprisoned Joseph Maldonado-Passage revealed that in an effort to spring Joe Exotic of Netflix’s tome “Tiger King,” Team Tiger spent more than $14,445 at the Trump Hotel D.C.—not the paltry $10,000 that had been previously reported (reported Emma Powys Maurice for PinkNews).

Here are six pardon or commutation recipients who’ve helped pad the president’s pocket:

Joe Arpaio—the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona was found guilty of criminal contempt of court, a misdemeanor, in July 2017. Trump pardoned Arpaio in August 2017.

Arpaio appeared in a private venue at the Trump Hotel D.C. sometime before September 2018.

Rod Blagojevich—the former governor of Illinois and one-time “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant was convicted of wire fraud, attempted extortion, making false statements, and other offenses December 2011. Trump commuted his sentence in February 2020.

The following October, Blagojevich headlined a pro-Trump round table and rally at Trump Tower Chicago.

Dinesh D’Souza—the conservative author and filmmaker was sentenced “to five years of probation, with eight months during the first year to be served in a community confinement center, after having pleaded guilty to violating the federal campaign election law by making illegal contributions to a United States Senate campaign in the names of others” in September 2014. Trump pardoned D’Souza in May 2018.

D’Souza spoke to brunch attendees at the D.C. hotel in October 2018. He also headlined the conservative conference AMPFest in 2019 and 2020 at Doral. And in his 2020 book, “United States of Socialism,” D’Souza plugged the president’s hotel, writing “One of my favorite hotels in America is the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.” D’Souza’s been spotted in the hotel’s lobby on other occasions too.

Michael Flynn—President Trump’s one-time National Security Advisor pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators in November 2017. Trump pardoned him in November 2020.

At the Trump Hotel D.C. in January 2017, Flynn attended n pre-inaugural event where he chatted with Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Flynn also participated in a breakfast with Rep. Devin Nunes (R–CA) and dozens of foreign government officials at the hotel two days before Trump’s inauguration (which the Mueller probe scrutinized), as Erin Banco, Asawin Suebsaeng, Betsy Swan, and Spencer Ackerman reported for The Daily Beast in 2019. Flynn was slated to be a featured guest at Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Council in September 2020 at the Trump Hotel D.C., although that event was postponed because of COVID-19.

And Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., addressed a February 2018 MAGA Meetup at the D.C. hotel and attended the MAGA Coalition’s Evening with Sarah Palin in May 2018.

Bernard Kerik—the former New York police commissioner was sentenced to 48 months in prison after he pleaded guilty “to one count of obstructing and impeding the due administration of the internal revenue laws,” “one count of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return,” “one count of making a false statement on a loan application,” and “five counts of making false statements to the federal government.” Trump pardoned Kerik in February 2020.

Kerik’s dined with his daughter at the Trump Hotel D.C. in July 2018, enjoyed “baddassry” at the D.C. hotel on the evening of the 2020 State of the Union, appeared at Turning Point USA’s July 2019 liberty gala at the D.C. hotel, dined at Turning Point’s December 2019 $2,500/person winter gala at Mar-a-Lago, chatted with the president at Mar-a-Lago in May 2020, and attended a presidential press conference at Bedminster in August 2020.

Roger Stone—the political consultant and longtime Trump friend was sentenced to 40 months in prison after being found guilty of obstruction, witness tampering, and five counts of making false statements in November 2019. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence in July 2020.

In October 2017, Stone was a featured guest at a MAGA Meetup at the D.C. hotel. In February 2019 (about 26 hours after a U.S. district judge instructed him not to treat criminal proceedings against him as a “book tour”), Stone spoke before a paying crowd of a couple hundred supporters and touted his wares at the Virginia Women for Trump’s 2020 campaign kickoff at the Trump Hotel D.C. That July, Stone was slated to headline an “Exclusive Private Demand Free Speech Reception” at the D.C. hotel. And in October 2019 Stone headlined a Jexit brunch at the hotel. Stone’s been spotted at the Trump Hotel D.C. on other occasions too, including with Jacob Wohl.

Honorable mentions

Conrad Black—the newspaper publisher was found guilty of mail fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007. Trump pardoned him in May 2019. Black “at one time partnered with Trump to build Trump Tower in Chicago, but Trump later bought him out,” reported Colby Itkowitz for The Washington Post in 2019.

Jack Johnson—the boxer was sentenced to one year in prison for violating the White Slave Traffic Act in 1920. Trump pardoned in May 2018. While Johnson’s died in 1946, when Sylvester Stallone, Lennox Lewis, Deontay Wilder, Hector Sulaiman, and Mia St. John were in D.C. to participate in the pardon announcement, they were seen at the Trump Hotel.

Other Trump Organization news

Reference section

Links to rundowns of developments in the House’s investigations and lawsuits, reference sheets for some of 1100 Pennsylvania’s previous reporting, and articles that provide the background on why all of this matters. The date published or last updated is in parentheses.


Notable hotel customers


  • Stay to play: Inside the sordid history of Trump’s D.C. hotel—And why the president’s prized property could be headed for a reckoning” by your correspondent for Mother Jones (September 2020)

  • Power tripping in the swamp: How Trump’s D.C. hotel swallowed Washington
    The MAGA social scene is a movable feast, but its dark heart resides within the Old Post Office Building, where the Trump Org operates under a mercenary charter” by your correspondent for Vanity Fair (October 2019)

  • Inside the world’s most controversial hotel: The hotel that was expected to take its place among the crown jewels of D.C.’s travel scene has become a magnet for protestors, a West Wing Annex, and—possibly—the center of a constitutional crisis.” by your correspondent for Condé Nast Traveler (May 2018)

Upcoming key dates

  • Sept. 23, 2019—House Judiciary Committee hearing “Presidential corruption: Emoluments and profiting off the presidency” (postponed, not yet rescheduled)

  • Dec. 9, 2020—Deadline for exchanging witness lists in the D.C. attorney general’s lawsuit alleging improperly spent nonprofit funds by the Trump Hotel D.C. and Trump’s inaugural committee.

  • Jan. 20, 2021—Donald Trump will no longer be the president.

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