Investigating in potential bribery scheme to obtain pardon
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating a potentially criminal scheme involving paying a bribe to people either in or affiliated with the White House in exchange for an unknown person receiving a presidential pardon, according to court documents that were unsealed Tuesday.
The court records, which were unsealed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, say the DOJ investigation involves two people, whose names are redacted, who were improperly acting as lobbyists to secure the pardon for a person whose name is also redacted. The plot involved the person offering “a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence.”
It was not immediately clear for whom the pardon would be granted or where the bribe would be directed, and the documents provide no indication President Trump was aware of the plot.
The disclosure, contained in a 20-page filing littered with redactions, comes amid reports that Trump is considering pardoning an array of associates in the waning days of his presidency.
The new filing shows Chief Judge Beryl Howell was conducting a review in August of a request from federal prosecutors to examine documents that had been obtained from a search warrant as part of an investigation into the plot.
The release shows investigators recovered more than 50 digital devices, including iPhones, iPads, laptops and computer drives, after a raid of unidentified offices. The prosecutors were requesting access to the devices on suspicion that they showed alleged criminal activity regarding the “secret lobbying scheme” for the unnamed person.
The files indicate the devices contain communications between a defendant and an attorney, which are typically kept from prosecutors because they are considered privileged. However, such privilege is not applied when an exchange involves discussion of a crime, and Howell granted prosecutors access to the devices.
"The political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was 'parallel' to and distinct from [redacted]'s role as an attorney-advocate for [redacted name]," Howell wrote in her court order.
The new documents do not include any names of the people involved or when the scheme was hatched. They do say the two people who were working to organize the agreement were acting as lobbyists to senior administration officials but did not comply with the Lobbying Disclosure Act’s registration requirement.
It also appears prosecutors have not yet provided evidence to the judge regarding a direct payment but that the person seeking a pardon was doing so for protection regarding political contributions they’d made.
No charges have yet been filed that indicate a person has been prosecuted over the alleged bribery.
Speculation over possible grants of clemency in the waning days of Trump’s presidency reached a fever pitch last week when Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to federal investigators about his contacts with the top Russian diplomat in the United States. The charge was brought in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Allies of the president on Capitol Hill and in the media have pressed him in recent days to preemptively pardon an array of confidants, family members and even himself, floating claims that they could be targeted by politically motivated charges once Trump leaves office.
Nine House managers walked across the Capitol to inform the Senate that they were ready to prosecute the former president for “incitement of insurrection.” And the Justice Department opens inquiry into an “improper attempt” by officials to overturn the presidential election.
Dominion Voting Systems, the voting equipment manufacturer at the centre of baseless election fraud conspiracy theories pushed by Donald Trump and his allies, has sued the former president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in a $1.3bn defamation lawsuit. The 107-page complaint, filed in federal court on Monday, accuses the former New York City mayor of having “manufactured and disseminated” a conspiracy theory related to the company’s voting machines.
Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 19th president of the United States on March 4, 2021. This is the latest conspiracy that QAnon followers have embraced in the wake of President Joe Biden’s inauguration last week, and extremist experts are worried that it highlights the way QAnon adherents are beginning to merge their beliefs — about the world being run by an elite cabal of cannibalistic satanist pedophiles — with even more extreme ideologies.
Beginning in the late ’80s, the infamous sex trafficker and the future president (and their mutual friend Ghislaine Maxwell) palled around for almost two decades. In an excerpt from his new book, American Kompromat, Craig Unger exposes their shared tastes for private planes, shady money, and foreign-born models—many of them “on the younger side.”