The United States Department of Justice is actively investigating a potential bribery scheme involving officials with ties to the White House.
According to CNN, the case was made public Tuesday with the release of heavily redacted court documents in connection to a "bribery-for-pardon" probe. The records, which were unsealed by the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., confirm US prosecutors are investigating two unnamed individuals who "acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials, without complying with the registration requirement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act." Authorities say they have obtained evidence that suggests at least one of those lobbyists may have offered "a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence."
The documents reveal that investigators had seized more than 50 digital devices—including iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives, and computer drives—following raids of unidentified offices. Federal prosecutors filed a request to access documents that were obtained during the raid, stating they may contain evidence of a criminal "lobbying scheme." The issue was that some of those files contained communications between a defendant and an attorney; however, Chief Judge Beryl Howell ultimately granted prosecutors' request, ruling attorney-client privilege did not apply when there is a suspected crime.
"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 unsealed documents do not reveal the names of the individuals under investigation, nor do they name figures within or with ties to the White House. It's also unclear when the alleged bribery scheme was hatched. As of Tuesday, it seems no one has been publicly charged in connection to the investigation.
The White House has yet to comment on the unsealed documents.
News of the probe comes about a week after President Donald Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser who was convicted of lying to the FBI about conversations with Russian officials. There are reports that Trump is looking to issue more pardons during his last remaining weeks in office. According to the New York Times, the president has also reportedly discussed giving preemptive pardons to his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, his three eldest children—Donald Trump, Jr.; Ivanka Trump; and Eric Trump—as well as his son-in-law/adviser Jared Kushner.
No member of the Trump family has been charged with a federal crime, but insiders say there is concern the incoming Biden administration will retaliate against Trump with politically motivated criminal investigations.
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