By on January 20, 2021

pardon

Among those receiving a Presidential pardon included Anthony Levandowski and Elliott Broidy. Trump’s largesse was noted in a story on Autoblog that appeared earlier today.

pardon

Levandowski, a former Google engineer, pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets on autonomous cars before moving to Uber to head up Otto, their self-driving startup. Pleading guilty in March for selling Google’s information to Uber for $680 million, in August he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Levandowski avoided serving time because he was allowed by Judge William H. Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to wait until the pandemic subsides before remanding him into custody.

In the story, according to The White House, the pardon was backed by tech industry leaders who supported Trump, including investors Peter Thiel and Blake Masters and entrepreneur Palmer Luckey.

Waymo, Google parent corporation Alphabet’s self-driving auto technology division, declined to comment. Transferring more than 14,000 Google files, including development schedules and product designs to his laptop before Levandowski left, he did so while negotiating with Uber.

After a state court ruled that Levandowski owed Google $179 million for employment contract violations, Levandowski filed for bankruptcy to negotiate his debts. In a plea deal, Levandowski agreed to pay $756,500 to cover costs Alphabet bore assisting the government’s investigation. Uber has said it intended to challenge indemnification in paying the judgment on behalf of their ex-employee. What effect the Trump pardon might have on his financial obligations is unknown.

pardon

Closer to home is the saga of Elliott Broidy, executive producer of Snake And Mongoose, a movie about drag racing legends Don ‘the Snake’ Prudhomme, and the late Tom ‘the Mongoose’ McEwen. Broidy pleaded guilty in 2009 to providing gratuities to New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who invested $250 million in Broidy’s private equity firm. In exchange for cooperation that led to the conviction of Hevesi and six other pension officials, the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, Broidy paid $18 million in restitution, and avoided incarceration.

In October, 2020, Broidy pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, accepting money to lobby the Trump administration for Chinese and Malaysian interests. Broidy had previously served in 2016 as vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. The felony charge to which Broidy pleaded guilty carried a prison sentence of up to five years, but yesterday, he along with a gaggle of others, received a pardon or commuted sentence by outgoing President Donald J. Trump.

It’s good to have friends in high places.

[Images: Whitehouse.archives.gov; Otto, Snake & Mongoose Productions]

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45 Comments on “Pardon Me, Did I Do Something Wrong?...”


  • avatar
    thegamper

    I sort of assumed the Levandowski pardon was the best F-U to big tech trump could muster in his last two weeks in office….in his diminished capacity.

    If there were pardons that would have served that purpose to Twitter, Facebook, and Apple I bet they would have been let loose as well.

    But that makes sense, high dollar donors asking for it, with undoubtedly a little cash on the side to make it happen. I think that for sale sign has been up for a while.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      tRump is out. Corrupt pardons are the final legacy of a corrupt regime.

      I found it ironic that his leaving the WhiteHouse corresponded with my street’s garbage day except my trash didn’t get a 21 gun salute.

      His next gig will be a role reversal with Melania. He’ll be first Lady of the cell block.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I don’t remember them writing much Trump pardons Blagoevich. We know what he was doing..
      Stealing from google? Google steals from all of us every day.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        Nobody is forcing you to use Google services. There is a competitor to literally every service they offer.

        If you are still using them, I would bet its because you like them enough to continue using them even though they are tracking your data, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        You know slavuta, I’d never think that I’d ever agree with you on anything, but lo and behold…I agree with your statement 100%. Use Duckduckgo…no tracking.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That Levandowski’s pardon “was backed by tech industry leaders” makes me shudder.

    The value and protection of intellectual property is partially responsible for their wealth, but they ignored that in favor of supporting a disgraced outgoing President who can do nothing for them in the future, anyway.

    I guess these guys have never experienced the theft of *their* IP.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “experienced the theft of *their* IP.”

      In software, patents aren’t popular with everyone. Sure, you can patent something, then you bump up against 100’s of other people’s patents. Everyone is tired of it and open-sourcing everything. Sure license the end product, licensing certain smaller components is ridiculous.

      Most of these companies in the AV space aren’t doing anything terribly unique anyway. They’re mostly following the same template. In fact, many of them are basing their work off of the same basic platforms. Try searching for Autonomous Vehicle engineering jobs and include the keyword “ROS”. Or try ‘autonomous vehicle “ros” careers waymo’ or ‘autonomous vehicle “ros” careers ford’. In fact drop in other manufacturer’s names including Tesla. Then look at some of the technology similarities in those job descriptions and you’ll see what I mean.

  • avatar
    rvakenya

    Can we enjoy talking about cars without talking about politics? It hasn’t gone well for the NFL and the NBA to bring political talk to a time when people just want to relax and enjoy something, to forget about life. I enjoy this site to read about cars and forget about the headaches of life. I don’t care who you voted for or what your views are, just leave the politics for your Facebook page and talk about cars.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      A lot of that changed in 2015/2016, believe me it at one time was very auto centric with only a hint of controversy. I recall good a piece written by a LEO which somehow become controversial and racked up an excess of 600 posts but it was the only one of its sort at that time. Now I’m sure there is a pattern, X type of articles then Y political then rinse and repeat.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The pardon of a man whole stole intellectual property related to autonomous vehicle technology *is* car news.

      That IP governs how such vehicles work – vehicles you may be riding in someday – and it provides a market edge to those who can make it work. The case didn’t become politicized until Mr Trump agreed to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      RangerM

      @rvakenya

      Depends how long you expect that to last.

      It may only be a matter of time before attempts are made to (effectively) outlaw your ICE vehicle through punitive taxation, impossible restrictions on sales, etc. Some people really want that to happen.

      I just hope people remember what they voted for, and what they actually got.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        And you don’t think that a) the hundreds of millions of people who own ICE cars and don’t want their property outlawed, or 2) the millions of people for whom EVs won’t work might refuse to vote for someone who tried to “come for their cars”?

        Enough of this “they’re coming for your (fill in the blank here)” nonsense already. No one is coming for your gas powered car. And the government can’t force (or even incent) people to drive any kind of car unless they want to. The market determines that, and the market votes. Politicians know that.

        Eventually, EVs will represent a far bigger chunk of the market. But that’ll happen when the market wants it to.

        • 0 avatar
          aja8888

          Nice post….common sense…logical thinking….something the EV fanboys don’t have.

        • 0 avatar
          RangerM

          You’re correct, FreedMike. I don’t believe anyone is going to confiscate ICE cars any more than they’ll confiscate guns.

          It’s not the intent I’m looking at. It’s the net effect.

          People hate on Bezos’ wealth, but most COVID policy couldn’t have been more tailor-made to benefit him or other large corporate owners.

          There’s no need to outlaw/confiscate poor people’s cars if a fuel tax, property tax, registration fee, or insurance cost accomplishes the same result of fewer cars.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Once again, though…government can’t force people to have fewer cars if they don’t agree. And any politician who tries, particularly when it comes to something people depend on as heavily as they do cars, is going to take a beating.

            And I’m not sure what’s behind the slam on Bezos – yes, COVID helped Amazon’s business, but the same was true for grocery stores, Target, Wal-Mart, and other stores selling “essentials.” Sounds to me like Amazon was in the right place at the right time with the right service.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Freed

            I realize its complicated, but gov’t decided to break basic contract law in all 50 states with it’s legally dubious “eviction moratoriums”. So given this, I really don’t see it being out of the realm of possibility for them to invent rules limiting the amount of automobiles you can own/enjoy/register/drive. Its not like anyone is stopping them from much more egregious behavior, such a thing is minor in comparison. They can use State Media to trot out some lunacy and then follow it up with “its for the children” and done. Again, who or what is to stop them?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Every rental contract that’s worth the paper it’s printed on states that the contract is governed by applicable state and local laws and regulations. States and localities have every right to change said laws and regulations, and that includes evictions. Your argument doesn’t hold water.

            Besides, if we want to get political about it, the places that enacted eviction moratoriums did so because of popular opinion – i.e., the political will of the people. Now, can you imagine hundreds of millions of Americans lining up to have their cars taken away because of how they’re powered? I can’t either.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “States and localities have every right to change said laws and regulations, and that includes evictions. Your argument doesn’t hold water.”

            Uh government is supposed to follow its own laws too. They frequently do not, because we are way past the concept of rule of law, but it is absurd to suggest bureaucrats can arbitrarily violate tens of thousands of legal contracts. What’s next, The Purge? Very serious. This is government picking winners and losers pure and simple. I really did understand the reasoning last spring, because a bunch of broke homeless people is going to lead to insurrection. They keep dragging this sh!t on to create *more* broke and homeless people and the agenda is very clear by now.

            “the places that enacted eviction moratoriums did so because of popular opinion – i.e., the political will of the people.”

            Mob rule? Great! Goes well with the bread and circuses, we just need to erect the Coliseum and we’re there.

            “Now, can you imagine hundreds of millions of Americans lining up to have their cars taken away because of how they’re powered? I can’t either.”

            I seriously can envision this depending on circumstances at that time. All of this has shown me how easily manipulated people can be in this society. Let’s have a moratorium on *all media* for a month; It would be like living in 1983 again. The horror.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I skimmed through the press release enumerating the pardons on whitehouse.gov.

    Given the descriptions of rather icky crimes in the press release, I was left wondering why Former President Trump would want to associate himself with those people publicly.

    I don’t have an answer, but Trump is not my problem anymore. Time to get to work fixing the big problems. Maybe I’ll apply to work for the USDS.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I’m not a fan of how Presidents throw the pardon around like candy, but it’s hardly a Trump thing.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        brn,

        exactly. It looks horrible without perspective and context of all pardons.
        https://www.justice.gov/pardon/obama-pardons

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Please skip the whataboutism.

          Obama was pardoning folks who experienced what he considered miscarriages of justice — sentences which didn’t match the crime. I can see how reasonable people might disagree with Obama’s definition of a miscarriage of justice, but at least he was *trying* to do the right thing.

          Trump is pardoning political cronies. After reading the list of pardons, I had more questions about what Trump’s motivations were, not less.

          There is a big difference there.

          But, ultimately, it’s all water under the bridge at this point. Trump is history, just like Obama before him.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Plenty of Obama’s pardons smelled. Same with every president.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Go back to Clinton and the Marc Rich pardon.

            “Oh I’ll have my attractive ex wife lobby the President…and on an unrelated note, here is half a million for your library and ten grand to your wife’s Senate campaign”

            These typically stink. Nothing new here except the outrage.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            “Trump is pardoning political cronies.”

            I can say that these cronies don’t sell drugs to my children. But if you pardon someone who was spreading cocaine around, you just don’t care about communities.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            @Slavuta:
            “I can say that these cronies don’t sell drugs to my children. But if you pardon someone who was spreading cocaine around, you just don’t care about communities.”

            This is Trump we’re talking about. He’s always worse than you think.

            Here’s a drug dealer he pardoned:

            “Jonathon Braun: Braun imported marijuana worth approximately $1.76 billion, from 2008 to 2010, according to Customs and Border Protection documents, including 2,200 pounds in a single incident. He pleaded guilty in 2011 and served five years of a 10-year sentence for conspiracy to import marijuana and to commit money laundering. Trump commuted his sentence.”

            Why on earth would Trump want to tie his reputation to that guy?!?

            Reference:
            https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/full-list-trump-s-last-minute-pardons-commuted-sentences-n1254806

            (I initially read it on whitehouse.gov, which is now under new management.)

            There are 142 other people on the list, and the justifications look pretty flimsy and the characters pretty poor — even based on the Trump White House’s own descriptions. It is what it is.

            Remember that the way the “liberal media” makes Trump look bad is just to play his words unedited, unfiltered, and without comment.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The final pardon was for Fox host and former DA and judge Jeannine Pirro’s husband and is automobile related. Pirro’s husband went to the pokey for tax evasion. The man deducted a Ferrari and a pot bellied pig as business expenses. What I never understood is why she was never prosecuted since it’s a joint return.

    • 0 avatar
      epc

      Thanks for the details on Mr. Pirro’s deductions. Maybe the fact that her signature was on that return was the reason why she pushed so hard to have him pardoned at the very last minute. His pardon document may well have been the last piece of paper that Trump signed as president.

  • avatar

    Why does every car site have to now post political things that are totally unrelated or only vaguely related to cars in some inth degree? At first it was Jalopnik and now you guys. I can’t escape it and to be perfectly honest it’s peeving me off. If I wanted soapbox opinions on the present resident president, there are many sites for it. This should not be one of them. I read about cars to forget about politics but now it seems every site fancies itself some sort of multi-talented squawk box. Ugh. I’ll show myself out.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    More clickbait from TTAC.

    I know actual journalism is hard but you shouldn’t quit just because it is.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    You get Pardon, you get a Pardon, everyone gets a Pardon!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Maybe it’s time for us to rethink and somehow refine this presidential pardon process. Every president – not just Trump – ends up pardoning people that probably don’t deserve it, and most of these carry a big nasty whiff of political corruption. We don’t need any more of that than we already have.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The presidential pardon power is enumerated in the Constitution and there is centuries of precedent surrounding it at this point. The only way to really change things is to pass an amendment (2/3 of both chambers and 3/4 of the states agreeing) which seems like a very unlikely scenario in my lifetime.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        Realistically, there should be pardon power granted to the president. Leaving Trump totally out of the argument.

        There are some horrible judges on benches all across the country, people wrongly convicted by dirty prosecutors, people unfairly made examples of, etc.

        Is is a check in the whole checks and balances thing that makes our country great, like it or not. Too bad it is rarely used for altruistic purposes.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Well, it’s possible to modify this, and that’s the point. My thinking is that since it seems to be abused most often by presidents who are on their way out the door, perhaps do an amendment to add some restrictions to using them in the final year of a term,

          • 0 avatar
            thegamper

            Or perhaps limit the pardon power to matters where they have no personal interest, relationships with parties. I am not saying I love the way it works, just that it is understandable.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            If a president is running for re-election, then there’s a built-in disinclination for handing out stinky, corrupt-looking politically-motivated pardons. Those tend to happen when the president is a short-timer with nothing to lose. Maybe it’s those that we need someone to sign off on.

            Given that, maybe we could require a “second set of eyes” (I’m thinking Senate advise-and-consent, as they would on treaties or Cabinet appointments) if the pardon is happening, say, a year away from the president leaving office. That might make an outgoing president think twice about doing something that might reflect badly on the candidate “on their side” who’s running for the job.

            Just spitballin’, of course.

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