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ESPN: Trump offered senator money to drop Patriots’ Spygate probe in 2008

Donald Trump reportedly offered money to a U.S. senator to drop his investigation into the Patriots’ Spygate scandal in 2008, according to a new ESPN report.Catch up quick: In 2007, Patriots staffers were caught illegally videotaping Jets defensive signals, sparking an NFL investigation.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeThe investigation resulted in minor penalties (a couple fines and one lost draft pick), and second-year commissioner Roger Goodell ordered the evidence destroyed to put the matter to rest for good.But Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a diehard Eagles fan and longtime critic of the NFL, wasn’t satisfied with what he felt was a cover-up, so he launched his own investigation.In 2008, Specter spoke on the phone with a friend who also knew Patriots owner Robert Kraft. On the call, the friend told Specter, “If you laid off the Patriots, there’d be a lot of money in Palm Beach.”Driving the news: There was always speculation that friend was Trump, and ESPN has now confirmed as much from two sources — Specter’s son, Shanin, and the ghostwriter of two of his memoirs, Charles Robbins.”My father told me that Trump was acting as a messenger for Kraft,” Shanin Specter told ESPN. “But I’m equally sure the reference to money in Palm Beach was campaign contributions, not cash.”Of note, per ESPN: “Election experts say it’s a close call as to whether such an offer would be a bribe in the sense that it would be a prosecutable offense.”The bottom line: Was this phone call between Trump and Specter a last-ditch effort by Kraft to get Specter to drop the investigation, a simple campaign contribution request or something in between?Specter lost his battle with cancer in 2012, so we’ll likely never know the full truth. But ESPN’s latest report shines new light on one of the strangest scandals in NFL history.For the record: Spokespeople for both Trump and Kraft have denied the report.Go deeper: Read the full storyLike this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.