Did Donald Trump make a phone call on behalf of Robert Kraft and the Patriots during the Spygate scandal? According to a report from ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham, the answer is yes.
Shanin Specter, the son of former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who famously launched an investigation into the Spygate scandal, and Charles Robbins, the senator’s communications aide and ghostwriter, both claim to know that Trump offered money to make Specter’s investigation go away.
The elder Specter, who was a staunch critic of the NFL, wanted league executives to testify under oath about why evidence of cheating had been destroyed. The investigation never made headway.
Why it matters: If Trump did offer Specter any money to make the Spygate scandal go away, that could be considered a bribe and would potentially have been a prosecutable offense.
- Kraft and Trump have enjoyed a friendship for quite some time, dating back to Kraft buying a place near Mar-a-Lago in Florida back in the 1990s. The two became friends at that point, and more recently Kraft has spoken about how involved Trump was in his life after Kraft’s wife, Myra, died. So, the two do share a long-term connection.
- The NFL really didn’t want the scandal to be investigated, with Roger Goodell once saying, “If it ever got to an investigation, it would be terrible for the league.”
What they’re saying: Of course, the former president of the United States and the Patriots’ owner both deny that Trump made any overtures to Specter while the Spygate investigation was in the works.
- “This is completely false,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, per Van Natta Jr. and Wickersham. “We have no idea what you’re talking about.” Miller declined to answer a series of follow-up questions. A Patriots spokesman said Kraft “never asked Donald Trump to talk to Arlen Specter on his behalf.”
- “Mr. Kraft is not aware of any involvement of Trump on this topic and he did not have any other engagement with Specter or his staff,” the spokesman said via email.
But … : The younger Specter insisted that Trump was “acting as a messenger for Kraft,” according to Van Natta Jr. and Wickersham’s report.
- “My father told me that Trump was acting as a messenger for Kraft. But I’m equally sure the reference to money in Palm Beach was campaign contributions, not cash. The offer was Kraft assistance with campaign contributions. … My father said it was Kraft’s offer, not someone else’s.”
What came of this: Arlen Specter did not report the offer to the after concluding the offer wasn’t a bribe solicitation, Shanin Specter said. Campaign contributions, which is reportedly the form that Trump and Kraft’s offer came in, aren’t considered bribes. But even at this stage in the history of the Spygate scandal — 13 1/2 years removed from it — this story is an intriguing anecdote.
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