In early 2008, Donald Trump offered U.S. Senator Arlen Specter what appeared to be a bribe if Specter dropped his push for a congressional investigation into the Patriots' Spygate scandal, according to ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham.
According to ESPN, Specter once told Charles Robbins, the ghostwriter of his final book and a former aide, "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.' "
Specter, according to transcripts obtained by ESPN, replied, "I couldn't care less."
Although the exchange was published in Specter's 2012 book, the senator did not identify the friend. However, Robbins tells ESPN now, "I was pretty darn sure the offer was made by Trump. At the time, it didn't seem like such an important moment. Back then, Trump was a real estate hustler and a TV personality."
Adds Shanin Specter, Arlen's son, to ESPN: "My father told me that Trump was acting as a messenger for [Patriots owner Robert 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.
"He told me about the call in the wake of the conversation and his anger about it. ... My father was upset when [such overtures] would happen because he felt as if it were tantamount to a bribe solicitation, though the case law on this subject says it isn't. ... He would tell me these things when they occurred. We were very close."
Kraft and Trump, both responding to ESPN through spokespeople, denied involvement in any effort to influence Specter's investigation.
"This is completely false," Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, told ESPN. "We have no idea what you're talking about."
"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," a Patriots spokesperson told ESPN via email.
Trump and Specter had been friends with Trump first donating to one of Specter's campaigns in the early 1980s. Trump would go on to donate more than $11,000 to Specter's campaign committees and referred to Specter as a "close friend" in handwritten notes.
Specter died in 2012, just one year removed from serving 30 years in the U.S. Senate.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who this past January was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump but declined to accept it in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, was fined $500,000 for his role in the Spygate incident. The team was fined $250,000 and docked of its first-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft for videotaping an opposing team's signals from an unauthorized area during a 2007 game.
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