Dec. 2 (UPI) — The Justice Department is investigating a potential scheme involving bribes in exchange for presidential pardons, according to federal court documents released Tuesday.
The documents contain an opinion entered by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on Aug. 28, discussing whether prosecutors can review documents obtained as part of the bribery-for-pardon investigation.
According to the filings, the investigation 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 an individual whose name was redacted.
It also involves an alleged offer by another individual presenting “a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence.”
The filings do not reveal a timeline of the alleged scheme, nor the names of any individuals involved. It also does not name President Donald Trump or indicate if White House officials were aware of the scheme.
In August, more than 50 digital devices such as iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives and computer drives obtained in office raids were being looked over by a filter team, which ensures prosecutors don’t observe privileged information.
Prosecutors believed the devices revealed emails showing criminal activity related to the scheme and Howell allowed them access, as attorney-client privilege does not protect communications that include discussion of a crime.
The Justice Department told Howell it wanted to keep the filings confidential in court as “individuals and conduct” had not yet been charged and investigators said they planned to “confront” three people with communications and complete their investigation.
Trump has granted 29 pardons, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn last week, and commuted 16 sentences during his presidency.