The Department of Justice is investigating a possible “secret lobbying scheme” to secure a presidential pardon, according to a partially unsealed filing in D.C. federal court.
The 20-page document is largely redacted, leaving it a mystery who investigators believe was hoping to receive the pardon or reprieve in exchange for “a substantial political contribution.”
No names or identifying information is provided, and the investigation appears to be ongoing. The evidence of a potential bribery scheme was discovered after authorities raided an unidentified lawyer’s office over the summer and seized 50 electronic devices including iPhones, iPads, laptops, and thumb drives, according to the filing.
The filing was first reported by CNN.
"The political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was 'parallel' to and distinct from [redacted]'s role as an attorney-advocate for [redacted name]," Chief Justice Beryl A. Howell wrote in the unsealing order.
The documents appear to suggest that investigators are looking at two individuals they say worked as unregistered "lobbyists to senior White House officials," and hoped to bribe the White House through an intermediary. The filings say the feds plan to question at least three people linked to the alleged scheme.
News of the alleged bribe-for-pardon scheme comes amid reports that Trump is planning a flurry of pardons before he leaves office come January, and as many both within Trumpworld and outside it reportedly try to get themselves on his list of potential candidates for clemency. The New York Times reported that some of his former advisers and even “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic have been making overtures in the hopes of being considered for a pardon.
And the president himself is said to be considering preemptive pardons for his own children as the Trump Organization faces scrutiny from investigators, according to the Times. Trump is reportedly considering the same thing for his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, whose dealings in Ukraine have attracted the attention of prosecutors in Manhattan.
Thus far, nine Trump associates have been indicted for, or convicted of, federal crimes that the president has the power to undo with a stroke of his pen.
Last week, Trump pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In July, Trump commuted the three-year, four month sentence handed down to former campaign adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted on seven felony counts for lying to Congress about the Trump-Russia investigation.