The issuance of a pardon by Trump to a usurer reportedly disrupted an ongoing federal investigation, as per a recent report.


  In the early hours of Donald Trump's final day in the presidential seat, he declared his intention to grant clemency to Jonathan Braun, a convicted orchestrator of an extensive marijuana enterprise operating under the guise of a loan shark. Braun, serving a decadal sentence at the time, found himself among the 143 beneficiaries of Trump's pardons, a list that included notable figures like rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black.

This executive move by Trump dealt a severe blow to an ongoing federal investigation that had spanned several years, as detailed in a recent exposé by The New York Times. The publication further unraveled connections between Braun and the familial ties of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Amidst delicate negotiations, federal prosecutors were actively seeking Jonathan Braun's collaboration in an ongoing Justice Department inquiry into the world of predatory lenders within the merchant cash advance industry. This intricate dance was abruptly disrupted by Trump's proclamation of clemency, leaving investigators grappling with the loss of a potential informant. The belief was that Braun, being an insider in the industry, held valuable insights into the web of predatory lending agreements. However, once freed from incarceration, prosecutors found themselves bereft of the leverage necessary to coerce Braun into divulging pertinent information.

The timeline between 2011 and 2020, during Braun's pre-sentencing period for the marijuana case, saw him extending predatory loans to small businesses. According to court testimonies, borrowers recounted threats directed at them and their families for non-payment. Over the nine-year wait for sentencing, Braun faced accusations of issuing violent threats to eight individuals who had borrowed from him. A lawsuit even alleged that in 2018, Braun forcibly pushed a man off a deck at a Staten Island residence.

As per a court document, a real estate developer, who had previously borrowed from Braun, recounted a chilling threat where Braun asserted, "I will take your daughters from you."

In an affidavit, another borrower detailed Braun's ominous words, stating, "Be thankful you're not in New York, because your family would find you floating in the Hudson."

Merely months after regaining freedom, Braun faced a prohibition from engaging in the making or collection of business loans by the state of New York. New York Attorney General Letitia James, in the wake of this ban, asserted that Braun and cohorts had been inflicting harm on small businesses through exorbitant interest rates and undisclosed fees. A subsequent lawsuit by James contended that the "merchant cash advances," purportedly a form of short-term, high-interest funding for small businesses offered by Braun and others, were, in reality, illegal loans with astronomical and illicit interest rates.

The court decree mandated Braun's company — Richmond Capital Group, LLC — along with two other entities — Ram Capital Funding, LLC, and Viceroy Capital Funding Inc. — to annul debt owed by numerous small businesses nationwide. Additionally, they were directed to reimburse interest and overage charges, cumulatively amounting to tens of millions of dollars.

The scrutiny by The Times extended to Jonathan Braun's ties with the Kushners. The newspaper's investigation unearthed Braun's affiliation with the inaugural class of the Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, N.J., a school that enjoyed substantial financial backing from the Kushner family.

An unnamed dealer in the merchant cash advance realm, choosing to remain anonymous, confided to The Times that Braun's cousin, managing Braun's business during his incarceration, revealed that Jacob Braun, Braun's father, had reached out to Charles Kushner, Kushner's father. The purpose was to express the family's aspirations for a presidential pardon for Braun by Trump. Subsequently, the cousin, Isaac Wolf, asserted that the Kushners played a role in facilitating Braun's release, as shared by the merchant cash advance dealer.

In a routine pattern, Jacob Braun consistently dialled Trump ally Alan Dershowitz, making impassioned pleas for the release of his son. Dershowitz recounted the weekly calls, stating, "Every single Friday by 3 o'clock in the afternoon: 'Hi, this is Jacob Braun. I'm so upset my son is still in prison, what can you do? It's unfair, he's a good boy,'" Dershowitz told the paper.

The revelation of Braun's pardon blindsided federal investigators, who, per The Times, only learned of it on the morning of the public announcement. According to the same source, their reaction was one of indignation, as they perceived Trump's actions as undermining potential negotiations with Braun regarding allegations of predatory lending practices.

In contrast, Braun staunchly asserts his innocence, casting himself as a victim of the justice system's purportedly unjust machinations. Expressing his dismay to the paper, he questioned, "What is so bad about me? I never hurt anybody, never did anything wrong to anybody."

Trump, unfazed by the controversy surrounding his pardoning decisions, has publicly declared his intention to extend clemency, should he assume the presidency once more. This includes pardons for individuals convicted in connection with the January 6 Capitol attack. Privately, Trump has reportedly disclosed to allies his intent to pardon higher-ranking figures involved in endeavors to overturn the results of the 2020 election.