On Tuesday, court records were unsealed that revealed in August, the Justice Department was investigating a potential crime related to a bribery-for-pardon scheme, which would entail funneling money to the White House (or a related political committee) through a large political contribution in exchange for receiving a presidential pardon. The Washington Post reports that specifically, U.S. prosecutors were investigating whether two individuals had approached senior White House officials as unregistered lobbyists, and a potentially related plot in which cash would be passed through intermediaries in exchange for a pardon of the sentence of a defendant who apparently is or once was in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Judge responsible for reviewing the prosecutors’ requests to access search warrant evidence back in August, was responsible for unsealing the records this Tuesday. The largely-redacted 18-page opinion does not identify the subjects of the investigations, nor do they indicate whether anyone has been or will be charged related to the investigation.
Despite being heavily redacted, Howell’s August opinion does offer some limited insight into the government’s investigation, including the fact that prosecutors allegedly claimed that at least one involved party “requested [redacted]’s assistance, ‘as a personal favor,’ to use his political connections [redacted].”
The unsealed documents also state that “this political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from [redacted]’s role as an attorney-advocate for [redacted].”
Although it’s obviously unclear who exactly the investigation was targeting, there’s no shortage of people who could potentially be interested in attempting to purchase a presidential pardon as Trump’s time in the office comes to an end.
When speaking about the court records, an anonymous Justice Department official stated: “No government official was or is currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing.”