How Donald Trump, Palm Beach may have played role in Patriots 'Spygate' scandal

'If you laid off the Patriots, there'd be a lot of money in Palm Beach,' Trump reportedly told Sen. Arlen Specter after 2008 dinner at Mar-a-Lago
Donald Trump, Arlen Specter, Robert Kraft, New England Patriots logo over Mar-a-Lago
Posted at 12:23 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 13:18:55-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A new report from ESPN, citing two sources, alleges that former President Donald Trump tried to intervene in a federal inquiry into the 2007 New England Patriots scandal involving the unauthorized recording of an opposing coaching staff's defensive signals during a game, offering a U.S. senator money to make it go away.

"If you laid off the Patriots, there'd be a lot of money in Palm Beach," Trump told the late Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., shortly after a 2008 dinner at Mar-a-Lago, according to the report.

Specter, who was the longest-serving senator from Pennsylvania, sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in February of that same year in which he wrote that he was "very concerned about the underlying facts on the taping, the reasons for the judgment on the limited penalties and, most of all, on the inexplicable destruction of the tapes."

As a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, Specter wondered whether the Patriots had acted improperly during their 24-21 victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville.

The letter came after the NFL imposed a $500,000 fine on Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, a $250,000 fine on the team and stripped New England of its first-round pick in the 2008 draft.

Arlen Specter after meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2008
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., after meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

According to ESPN, Trump invited Specter and his wife to a private dinner at Mar-a-Lago on Jan. 20, 2008 -- the same day as the NFL's conference championship games. It was during a telephone call not long after the dinner that Trump reportedly tried to bribe the senator.

The sources cited in the ESPN investigation are Specter's oldest son and a ghostwriter of the senator's two memoirs.

They claim it was Trump, who would go on to become the 45th president of the United States, who offered campaign cash to Specter if he were to drop the inquiry.

So why would Trump feel the need to get involved?

Donald Trump with arm on shoulder of Robert Kraft at NFL game in 2010
Donald Trump rests his arm on the shoulder of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft prior to an NFL game, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, in Foxborough, Mass.

Trump was a mutual friend of Specter and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who frequently played golf with Trump and bought a home in Palm Beach, not far from Mar-a-Lago. Kraft was so friendly with Trump that he even attended Trump's wedding to Melania Knauss at Mar-a-Lago in 2005.

According to ESPN's sources, Trump told Specter he was acting on behalf of Kraft.

Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, called the report "completely false," and a Patriots spokesman said Kraft "never asked Donald Trump to talk to Arlen Specter on his behalf."

Donald Trump and Robert Kraft talk to press corp inside Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in 2017
President Donald Trump talks to the press corps inside Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport, Sunday, March 19, 2017, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Standing next to Trump is New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

In March 2008, Trump wrote a $1,300 check to Specter's campaign committee, ESPN reported.

Ultimately, nothing ever came of Specter's inquiry. The senator switched party affiliations in 2009 and ran as a Democrat in the 2010 election, losing to Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary. Specter died in 2012.

Trump eventually turned his focus to the White House, beating former first lady Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. After losing to Joe Biden in last year's presidential election, Trump returned to Mar-a-Lago, where he now resides.