During the spring of 2008, sports fans from every corner of the country had their eyes on Foxborough, Massachusetts. Former United States Senator Arlen Specter had launched an investigation into the infamous "Spygate" scandal. The New England Patriots were accused of illegally taping walkthroughs and practices of opposing teams in order to gain an unfair advantage. Given that the Patriots had won three of the last seven Super Bowl titles, allegations of cheating were met with intense scrutiny. Adding on to the chaos, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and members of the league office moved to destroy all video evidence that the Patriots had provided upon completion of their internal investigation. Ultimately, the Patriots were hit with multiple fines and the loss of a first-round draft pick, but Goodell noted that an additional independent investigation would only bring more harm to the league.
"If it ever got to an investigation, it would be terrible for the league," Goodell said.
Years later, an investigation from ESPN has proven to be terrible for the league. A report from NFL reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham has indicated that former President Donald Trump attempted to bribe then Sen. Arlen Specter in order to stop his investigation. The report goes on to alleges that Trump said he was acting on behalf of Patriots Owner Robert Kraft. At this time, it is unclear what exactly the attempted bribe consisted of, but Specter's son, Shanin Specter, denies that his father accepted it.
"If you laid off the Patriots, there'd be a lot of money in Palm Beach," Trump allegedly told Specter during a dinner in early 2008.
Specter never spoke about his conversation with Trump publicly, but his longtime communications aide, Charles Robbins, did confirm that Specter spoke about it privately.
"On the signal stealing, a mutual friend had told me that 'if I laid off the Patriots, there'd be a lot of money in Palm Beach.' And I replied, 'I couldn't care less,'" Robbins said his former boss told him.
Trump has had lengthy relationships with both Specter and Kraft. Trump has donated to Specter's political campaigns, hosted fundraising luncheons for him and referred to him as a "close friend." As for Kraft and Trump, their relationship is a bit more personal. The two have lived near each other and Trump was formerly a regular at Patriots games during the early 2000s. More importantly, the two grew close after Kraft's wife, Myra, passed away. The former President reportedly called Kraft once a week for nearly a year to check in on him. However, their relationship reportedly deteriorated during Trump's run for President.
"Loyalty and friendship trump politics for me," Kraft said.
"I always remember the people who were good to me in that vulnerable time, and he's in that category."
Despite Trump's close relationship with both Specter and Kraft, Trump denies any allegations of wrongdoing.
"This is completely false," Trump's senior adviser, Jason Miller, told ESPN.
"We have no idea what you're talking about."
Kraft also denied the report from ESPN. A spokesperson for the Patriots said that Kraft "never asked Donald Trump to talk to Arlen Specter on his behalf."
In the event there was hard evidence to prove Kraft and Trump were lying, there could be serious consequences. Given that Specter was a sitting U.S. Senator when the conversation allegedly took place, the two would face federal charges.
"It is immaterial whether Specter took Trump up on the offer formally. You can't walk up to a U.S. senator and say my friend has a big bag of cash for you, even if it's campaign money, if you would drop your investigation. That's a bribe," attorney Matthew T. Sanderson explained.
The NFL has yet to respond to this most recent story.
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