DOJ Investigating Potential Presidential Pardon Bribery Scheme

(Photo by Jack Rodgers / Courthouse News Service)

(CN) — The Justice Department has been investigating whether certain individuals engaged in a plot to bribe White House officials in exchange for a presidential pardon, according to a court filing unsealed Tuesday night.

Betwixt heavy redactions in the unsealed 18-page court order from Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell was the mention of a potential criminal scheme to offer “substantial” political contributions in exchange for a presidential pardon or sentence reprieve.

But the identities of the people being investigated, as well as the identity of the person for whom they were seeking a pardon, were not revealed in the document, and nothing in the document connected President Donald Trump to the scheme.

“No government official was or is currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing,” a Justice Department official told Courthouse News on Wednesday.

As part of the investigation into the alleged scheme, the document reveals more than 50 laptops, iPads, thumb drives and hard drives — including several terabytes of data — were seized by the government under search warrants. 

Judge Howell’s order, dated Aug. 28, came in response to the government’s request to view certain communications.

The goverment’s motion, referenced in the unsealed order, alleged that the government identified emails that indicate criminal activity, and that investigators suspected two unnamed people acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials, without registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, in an attempt secure a pardon for a convict.

Howell, a Barack Obama appointee, granted investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice access to emails connected to the alleged schemes and allowed prosecutors to use the materials to confront any subject of the investigation. 

The specific documents Howell cleared for review in the order are not protected by attorney-client privilege, she said, mainly because the emails had been shared between third parties.

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