- John Kiriakouformer CIA analyst and case officer who exposed the Bush-era torture program and was the only official jailed in connection to it.
Calls are growing for the Justice Department to investigate Donald Trump’s attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for allegedly plotting to sell presidential pardons during the Trump administration, after his former employee Noelle Dunphy filed a $10 million lawsuit against Giuliani accusing him of sexual assault and other misconduct. The complaint alleges Giuliani “asked Ms. Dunphy if she knew anyone in need of a pardon, telling her that he was selling pardons for $2 million, which he and President Trump would split.” Dunphy is not the first person to publicly reveal this scheme; CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou has previously divulged that he was among those asked to pay up in return for a clean slate. “This lawsuit is the first that I heard that money was supposed to be split with President Trump,” he tells Democracy Now! Kiriakou, who did not ultimately get a pardon, says he was told by a Giuliani aide not to bother with a formal application and that it would be handled informally. “It was all supposed to be hush-hush,” he says.
AMY GOODMAN: Former New York City mayor, and Donald Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani is coming under increasing scrutiny this week after a former associate filed a $10 million lawsuit against him, alleging, quote, “unlawful abuses of power, wide-ranging sexual assault and harassment, wage theft and other misconduct,” unquote. The suit was filed by Noelle Dunphy, who says Giuliani secretly hired her in 2019 off the books, while promising her an annual salary of $1 million. Dunphy says Giuliani repeatedly sexually assaulted her. She also accuses Giuliani of being constantly drunk and making racist, sexist and antisemitic comments, many of which were recorded.
The lawsuit also alleges Giuliani plotted to sell pardons for $2 million, to be split between him and Donald Trump, who would issue the pardons. Giuliani has faced this accusation before. Two years ago, former CIA officer John Kiriakou said an associate of Giuliani offered him a pardon for $2 million. Kiriakou was seeking a pardon for his role in exposing the CIA’s torture program. He had been arrested in 2012, spent nearly two years in prison.
Well, John Kiriakou joins us now from Washington, D.C.
John, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s good to have you with us. Let’s go back —
JOHN KIRIAKOU: Thanks so much.
AMY GOODMAN: — to what actually happened. What were you offered, and by whom? And where was the offer made?
JOHN KIRIAKOU: Well, I reached out to an associate of Rudy Giuliani’s in late 2020, after the election, thinking that this would be a good time to try to get to President Trump and ask for a pardon. I was able to get through to one of Giuliani’s associates or assistants, and he suggested that we meet at the Trump Hotel here in Washington, D.C., the first week of January 2021. Interestingly enough, he said that we had to meet at noon because the mayor enjoyed a drink or two — or five — earlier in the day, and by 2:00 we wouldn’t be able to have much of a conversation. So we met at 2 — at 12:00, rather, at the Trump Hotel.
It was several of us. It was Giuliani, his assistant, a second person and my attorney and me. And we sat there and made idle chitchat for 10 minutes. And finally, I said, “So, Mr. Mayor, there’s this issue of a pardon.” And Giuliani immediately stood up and said he needed to use the men’s room, and he walked away. And I said to the aide, “What just happened?” And he said, “You never talk to Rudy about a pardon. You talk to me about a pardon, and I’ll talk to Rudy.” I said, “OK, that’s fine.”
And he said, “Rudy is going to want $2 million.” And I laughed, and I said, “I don’t have $2 million. I’ll never have $2 million. And besides, even if I had $2 million, I wouldn’t spend it to recover a $700,000 pension.” And we sat there for a moment, and I said, “Look, this isn’t going to work out. Thanks for your time.” And I got up, and I walked away. And that was the end of the conversation.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And how were you ultimately granted a pardon, John?
JOHN KIRIAKOU: Oh, I wasn’t. You know, it’s funny. I had some support in the Trump administration, but only because I was convicted under the Obama administration. But I had approached Giuliani. I had hired a Republican lobbyist. And in the end, nothing came of it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, John, if you could explain if there was any mention — now, again, while there are many things in this lawsuit, very explosive lawsuit, that were recorded, because, apparently, Noelle Dunphy says, Giuliani wanted things recorded because he was talking about writing a book about himself and wanted a lot of things recorded. This wasn’t. And so, these allegations that he was going to split the money — also told people who wanted this kind of pardon not to go through the regular routes, because then it would all be documented and he couldn’t take the money. So, were you told that this would have to be sort of completely off the books, and you don’t go through the Justice Department? Did you have any indication, because at this point we don’t know of any direct connection between him and Donald Trump splitting this, if, in fact, Trump gave a pardon to you?
JOHN KIRIAKOU: Frankly, this lawsuit is the first that I had heard that money was supposed to be split with President Trump. I will say that Giuliani’s aide told me not to bother going to the website of the Office of the U.S. Pardon Attorney and applying online. He said, “We’re going to do this quietly, privately, behind the scenes.” And I said, “That’s fine. I know that’s the way things work in Washington.” So I never applied for the pardon officially, formally, with the Office of the U.S. Pardon Attorney. It was all supposed to be hush-hush.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, in fact, John, Trump granted very few pardons. I don’t know if that’s just officially through, as you say, the Office of the Pardon Attorney, or even through these other means.
JOHN KIRIAKOU: Well, you know, that’s a very interesting thing. There really is a very formal way of applying for a pardon. You go to this website, you fill out the form, and you hope for the best. In the meantime, the website routes your application to the FBI, the FBI does a background investigation to make sure that you’ve been “rehabilitated,” and then it goes to your prosecuting attorneys and to the prosecuting judge for comment.
Now, this is supposed to be independent of the Justice Department. The Office of the U.S. Pardon Attorney is supposed to be attached to the executive office of the president. It’s actually not. It physically sits at the Justice Department, which is not the way lawmakers on Capitol Hill had originally intended it. But as a result, almost nobody is recommended for a pardon. Almost nobody. And in the meantime, if you want a pardon and you have access to the president, that’s really how you do it. That’s not unique, or that wasn’t unique to Donald Trump. Every president does it that way. It’s kind of one of those ugly little secrets of Washington.
AMY GOODMAN: John Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and a case officer. He exposed the Bush-era torture program, was the only official jailed in connection with that torture program — he, for exposing it. Kiriakou was reportedly told he could secure a presidential pardon from Trump for $2 million. Well, John Kiriakou is going to stay with us. Coming up, a U.N. human rights panel is calling on the United States to finally release Abu Zubaydah, who was repeatedly tortured at CIA black sites and Guantánamo. We’re going to speak more with John Kiriakou, who was involved with his capture in 2002, and we’ll speak with Abu Zubaydah’s attorney. Stay with us.