Brian Chilson
WILL HE BE PARDONED BY TRUMP? Jeremy Hutchinson (right) in one of his federal court appearances.

A flurry of pardons is expected during Donald Trump’s last hours in office, perhaps including one for himself. And now comes word in the New York Times that, as expected, forces are working on Trump to pardon former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who awaits sentencing on federal bribery and tax charges.

It’s part of a broad story about influence peddling.

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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 brisk market for pardons reflects the access peddling that has defined Mr. Trump’s presidency as well as his unorthodox approach to exercising unchecked presidential clemency powers. Pardons and commutations are intended to show mercy to deserving recipients, but Mr. Trump has used many of them to reward personal or political allies.

One of the influence peddlers is working for the Hutchinson family. Tim is Governor Hutchinson’s brother. Jeremy is the governor’s nephew. After Jeremy Hutchinson was indicted, Tim Hutchinson joined Bud Cummins, Trump’s campaign leader in Arkansas, in forming a legal defense fund to aid Jeremy Hutchinson. Since he pleaded guilty in a variety of tax fraud, bribery and influence-peddling allegations from his time as a legislator, Cummins has shut down the defense fund. He has been unwilling to talk about activities on Jeremy’s behalf. Cummins is a Trump influencer. Cummins helped free Ted Suhl, convicted of bribing a state official to help his Medicaid-funded mental health services business, with a Trump commutation.

A portion of the Times article is devoted to Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor turned lobbyist who has been advising Trump on pardons and commutations. He’s monetized that work, the Times said, by lobbying 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.”

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The Times wrote about Hutchinson:

Some who used resources or connections to try to get to Mr. Trump say clemency should be granted to more people, independent of their clout.

“The criminal justice system is badly broken, badly flawed,” said the former senator, Tim Hutchinson, a Republican who served in Congress from 1993 to 2003. He has paid Mr. Tolman at least $10,000 since late last year to lobby the White House and Congress for a pardon for his son Jeremy Hutchinson, a former Arkansas state lawmaker who pleaded guilty in 2019 to accepting bribes and tax fraud, according to a lobbying disclosure filed this month.

Mr. Hutchinson said the $10,000 was only for lobbying and acknowledged Mr. Tolman may have performed legal services not reflected in the disclosure. While Mr. Hutchinson said he was happy with Mr. Tolman, he added, “There is a lot of people deserving of mercy, and I hope the president has a wide net in his approach to pardons and clemency.”

Mr. Tolman, who did not respond to requests for comment, is a former United States attorney in Utah appointed by President George W. Bush. He was a leading supporter of legislation overhauling sentencing laws championed by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner and was invited to the White House signing ceremony in December 2018. Since then, Mr. Tolman has emerged as a prominent advocate for clemency requests, with his firm’s website highlighting a White House statement crediting him with helping secure pardons or commutations for three people, including Mr. Kushner’s father, a wealthy real estate developer who was convicted of tax evasion, witness tampering and campaign finance violations.

UPDATE: I asked Bud Cummins if money from the defense fund was being used on Hutchinson’s behalf and if he was involved in the pardon effort. He declined to comment.

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A justice system is neither broken nor flawed when it gets a guilty plea from a state legislator who took bribes to influence legislation for a roster of clients; who masqueraded as a lawyer for a corrupt provider of tens of millions in Medicaid money, and who cheated on his federal income taxes.

It would be an affront to justice and the state of Arkansas if a corrupt legislator goes free thanks to more corrupt influence.

I wonder if the Times found a paper trail of anyone working for former Sen. Jon Woods, the first Arkansas legislator to endorse his presidential campaign? Trump values loyalty to him above all else. A pardon for the King Rat of crooked Arkansas legislators, doing 15 years, would be a fitting if outrageous conclusion to Trump’s corrupt reign.

Also: If Jeremy Hutchinson is freed, would he still help prosecutors who expect to use him in the coming trial of the former kingpins of the Missouri-based health company that oversaw the vast corruption scheme involving multiple legislators? Also still awaiting sentencing are former lawmakers Hank Wilkins and Eddie Cooper. Might they go to jail while Jeremy Hutchinson goes free? That, to borrow Tim Hutchinson’s phrase, would illustrate a “badly flawed” justice system.

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