DOJ investigating potential White House 'bribery-for-pardon' scheme

Tom Winter and Michael Kosnar

Federal investigators are looking into a potential “bribery-for-pardon” scheme involving presidential pardons, according to federal court documents unsealed by the chief judge for the federal court in Washington.

The heavily redacted documents revealed Tuesday do not name the individuals involved or President Donald Trump. They also do not indicate if any White House officials had knowledge of the scheme.

“No government official was or is currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing," a Justice Department official said.

The documents discuss whether prosecutors can review documents that may have been protected by attorney-client privilege and were seized as a result of a search warrant.

The opinion, entered by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on Aug. 28, is tied to an ongoing investigation that may involve at least two individuals who "acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials, without complying with the registration requirement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act … to secure ‘a pardon or reprieve of sentence for'" one individual whose name is redacted.

The investigation also involves an alleged offer by another individual to “offer a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence.”

The judge said that the communications could be reviewed by investigators because the emails included someone who is not an attorney.

"This political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was 'parallel' to and distinct from" one individual's role as an attorney advocate for another individual, the ruling said, redacting both names.

The White House declined to comment, but Trump tweeted late Tuesday night, "Pardon investigation is Fake News!"