In an extraordinary development, it appears that there’s an investigation by the justice department into allegations that people have been trying to bribe pardons for themselves from Trump.
An alleged “bribery for pardon” scheme at the White House is under investigation by the justice department, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday.
The heavily redacted document does not name Donald Trump or other individuals and leaves many unanswered questions, but comes amid media reports that the US president is considering sweeping pardons before he leaves office next month.
It shows that the justice department investigation alleges that an individual offered “a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence”.
Two individuals acted improperly as lobbyists to secure the pardon in the “bribery-for-pardon schemes”, as the document puts it. The names are blacked out.
The watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew) tweeted in response: “It’s hard to overstate how big a deal the phrase ‘bribery-for-pardon schemes’ is.”
The document was unsealed by the district court for the District of Columbia, in Washington. Some of its 20 pages are entirely redacted, implying that revealing the details now might jeopardise an ongoing investigation.
They discuss a review by chief judge Beryl Howell in late August of a request from prosecutors for documents gathered for the bribery investigation. More than 50 digital devices including iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives and computer drives were seized after investigators raided unidentified offices. It was not clear why Howell decided to release the filing now.
That Trump would be willing to sell pardons is very plausible. A grifter like him who sees everything in terms of money-making to benefit himself would sell the White House itself if he could.
Another unsurprising report is that he is exploring giving pre-emptive pardons to his children, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Rudy Giuliani, and others. Given that he is particularly fond of daughter Ivanka who is being investigated for misuse of inaugural funds and had to gave a deposition on Tuesday, a pardon for her in particular would be attractive to him.That particular investigation is by the attorney general for Washington, DC and it is not clear if a pardon would cover her. Presidential pardons are only for federal crimes and do not cover crimes prosecuted by the states.. But DC is under federal jurisdiction and Congress has delegated some power to its government. So its status is murky.