GR US

Greek-American Kiriakou among Those Approached to Buy a Presidential Pardon

The National Herald Archive

FILE - Author John Kiriakou at the Strand Bookstore in New York City. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

WASHINGTON, DC – Greek-American former CIA officer John Kiriakou was featured in a New York Times article concerning presidential pardons for sale in the final days of the Trump administration.

“As President Trump prepares to leave office in days, a lucrative market for pardons is coming to a head, with some of his allies collecting fees from wealthy felons or their associates to push the White House for clemency, according to documents and interviews with more than three dozen lobbyists and lawyers,” the Times reported.

“Pardons and commutations are intended to show mercy to deserving recipients,” the Times reported, noting that Trump however, “has used many of them to reward personal or political allies.”

Once it became clear that the challenges to the election results were going nowhere, “the pardon lobbying heated up” according to lobbyists and lawyers, the Times reported.

“One lobbyist, Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor who has been advising the White House on pardons and commutations, has monetized his clemency work, collecting tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly more, in recent weeks to lobby the White House for clemency for the son of a former Arkansas senator; the founder of the notorious online drug marketplace Silk Road; and a Manhattan socialite who pleaded guilty in a fraud scheme,” the Times reported.

“A onetime top adviser to the Trump campaign was paid $50,000 to help seek a pardon for John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information, and agreed to a $50,000 bonus if the president granted it, according to a copy of an agreement,” the Times reported, adding that “Kiriakou was separately told that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani could help him secure a pardon for $2 million.”

Kiriakou “rejected the offer, but an associate, fearing that Mr. Giuliani was illegally selling pardons, alerted the FBI,” the Times reported, noting that “Giuliani challenged this characterization.”

Following Trump’s impeachment “for inciting his supporters before the deadly riot at the Capitol, and with Republican leaders turning on him, the pardon power remains one of the last and most likely outlets for quick unilateral action by an increasingly isolated, erratic president,” the Times reported, adding that Trump “has suggested to aides he wants to take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of pardoning himself, though it was not clear whether he had broached the topic since the rampage.”

Trump “has also discussed issuing pre-emptive pardons to his children, his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and Mr. Giuliani,” the Times reported, noting that “a White House spokesman declined to comment.”

Former Trump campaign adviser, Karen Giorno, “met in 2018 with Kiriakou, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to illegally disclosing the name of a CIA officer involved in the waterboarding of an American detainee,” the Times reported, adding that “though the name was never publicly disclosed, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison.”

“In the meeting, at the Washington office of his lawyer, Kiriakou said he had been wronged by the government and was seeking a pardon so he could carry a handgun and receive his pension,” the Times reported.

Trump’s former director of advance, Greek-American George Gigicos, accompanied Giorno at the meeting, and both said they “had direct lines to the president,” Kiriakou told the Times.

“I wanted to believe them,” he said, the Times reported.

Giorno “disputed this account, saying neither she nor Mr. Gigicos bragged about their presidential access,” and she said that “Gigicos was not involved in her effort, which she said was motivated by a feeling that ‘it was unfair what happened’ to Kiriakou,” the Times reported, adding that in July 2018, Giorno “signed an agreement with Kiriakou, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, ‘to seek a full pardon from President Donald Trump of his conviction’ for $50,000 and promised another $50,000 as a bonus if she secured a pardon.”

Giorno said “she was approached about working on the matter by Mr. Kiriakou’s lawyer,” and “she never spoke to Mr. Trump directly about Mr. Kiriakou, and did not lobby anyone in his administration for a pardon,” the Times reported, adding that “rather, she said that in meetings with senior administration officials, she tried ‘to connect the dots’ between the people and techniques involved in Mr. Kiriakou’s prosecution and those involved in the special counsel investigation then dogging Mr. Trump’s presidency.”

Kiriakou said “he also broached his quest for a pardon during a meeting last year with Mr. Giuliani and his associates on another subject at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which involved substantial alcohol,” the Times reported, adding that “when Mr. Giuliani went to the bathroom at one point, one of his confidants turned to Mr. Kiriakou and suggested Mr. Giuliani could help… But ‘it’s going to cost $2 million — he’s going to want two million bucks,’ Mr. Kiriakou recalled the associate saying.”

“I laughed. Two million bucks — are you out of your mind?” Kiriakou said, the Times reported, “Even if I had two million bucks, I wouldn’t spend it to recover a $700,000 pension.”

Kiriakou said “he did not pursue the arrangement, but he shared the anecdote at a party last fall,” the Times reported, noting that “a friend, a Transportation Security Administration whistle-blower and former air marshal named Robert J. MacLean, became alarmed and feared Mr. Giuliani might be selling pardons.”

Without notifying Kiriakou, MacLean “filed a report with the FBI,” the Times reported.

“I felt duty-bound to report it,” MacLean told the Times which added that “neither he nor Kiriakou heard from the authorities.”

Giuliani “rejected the portrayal of events, saying that he did not remember meeting with Mr. Kiriakou and that none of his associates would offer his services as a pardon broker because he had made clear that he did not work on clemency cases as a result of his representation of Mr. Trump,” the Times reported.

“It’s like a conflict of interest,” Giuliani told the Times, adding that he said “he had heard that large fees were being offered, ‘but I have enough money. I’m not starving.’”