The premise is not complicated. Those with access to Trump, like his ex-personal lawyer John Dowd, are advertising their closeness to Trump as a means by which well-off felons can get their pardon requests heard—for a fee, of course. A steep fee. Part of what that fee gets you, if you are a well-to-do criminal, is Dowd's advice on how to "leverage Mr. Trump's grievances about the justice system" to make your own case that The Law Was Super Mean To You, says the Times. Well, duh.
While the Times lists out a few of the Trump-adjacent profiteers looking not to illegally sell pardons, but to wink-wink sell their influence with Trump to bring those would-be pardons to his attention, it goes without saying that ultragrifter Rudy Giuliani makes an appearance. Giuliani's asking price for one pardon was $2 million.
None of this is surprising. It was a given that anyone who has ever dined at Mar-a-Lago or worked for Trump in any capacity would, in the waning weeks of his failed administration, make a last-ditch cash grab to monetize whatever adjacency to Trump's power they might still have. And it's a given, at this point, that Trump himself would be willing to sabotage justice for anyone he perceived as an ally. That is what he does, and what he has demanded of others in his administration.
These plans, however, suffer from a possibly fatal flaw. People around Trump are collecting big fees to try to push Trump into granting specific pardons—but nowhere do we hear that those Trump allies are sharing those fees with Donald Trump himself. If Trump learns there's money involved but he's not getting a cut, he's just as likely to become enraged as to grant any particular pardon.
Will his eagerness to subvert the rule of law on behalf of his allies overwhelm his obsession with squeezing as much money out of his "presidency" as possible? We'll know in the next few days.