In Trump’s Pardons, Disdain for Accountability

Some people seeking pardons sought to capitalize on Mr. Trump’s obvious grievances.

Within weeks of stepping down as the president’s lawyer in 2018, John M. Dowd, who defended Mr. Trump in the special counsel’s investigation, began marketing himself as a potential conduit for pardons. He told some would-be clients and their representatives that Mr. Trump was likely to look favorably on petitioners who were investigated by federal prosecutors in Manhattan — who regularly took on cases that touched Mr. Trump or his associates — or tarnished by perceived leaks from the F.B.I., which he openly came to distrust and criticize during the Russia investigation.

One of Mr. Dowd’s clients, William T. Walters, a sports gambler convicted of charges related to an insider-trading scheme, had his sentence commuted by Mr. Trump early Wednesday. Mr. Dowd denied that he had boasted to anyone about his ability to obtain pardons and declined to answer questions.

And Karen Giorno, a top adviser to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, said that she had worked to help secure a pardon for one of her clients, a former C.I.A. official convicted in 2012 of leaking classified information, by seeking to “connect the dots” between the people and techniques involved in his prosecution and the special counsel’s investigation then dogging Mr. Trump’s presidency.

The argument resonated when Ms. Giorno made it in meetings with senior administration officials, she said.

“It was compelling,” Ms. Giorno said. “We were talking about witch hunts back then, and the abuse of power.” She said she did not speak directly to Mr. Trump or lobby anyone in his administration on behalf of her client, John Kiriakou, and no longer represented him. He did not receive a pardon.

Peter Smith, a former Republican House lawmaker from Vermont, said Mr. Trump’s actions show an extraordinary disregard for the integrity of government.

“He does not just distrust the law — he scorns it, he is opposed to it and he sees it as an obstacle to doing whatever he wants,” Mr. Smith said. “He is rewarding his friends. He is rewarding his allies, and he does not care what the implications look like. It is classic strongman behavior.”

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