US DOJ investigates alleged ‘bribery for pardon’ scheme

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The Justice Department is investigating an alleged “bribery-for-pardon” scheme under which individuals funnelled money to the White House in exchange for a presidential pardon. As per media reports, US District Judge Beryl Howell on Tuesday released a partially redacted document, confirming that the Justice Department was probing the bribery conspiracy.

Reportedly, names of the people under scrutiny were blacked out in the 20-page unsealed court document, providing few details of the potential crime. According to the document, Washington’s federal prosecutors had procured evidence of a bribery scheme in which an unidentified individual would “offer a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence.”

This development has come amid reports that Donald Trump is working on sweeping pardons before leaving the White House in January 2021.Several top advisors in the Trump administration have been convicted of federal criminal charges and there are high possibilities of Trump giving those people pardons who have been loyal to him.

At the same time, the Justice Department was also probing a secret lobbying scheme in which two unnamed individuals acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials to secure presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence without adhering to registration requirements. All the names are blacked out in the document.

A Justice Department official has told the media that no government official is or was a target of the investigation. The scheme appears to have been under investigation since August 2020. The document reportedly originated from Howell’s review of a government request to access a few communications which were believed to record the secret lobbying scheme and bribery scheme.

During the investigation, the government seized over 50 digital media devices including, phones, laptops and computer drives. According to Judge Howell, emails recorded on those devices contributed as evidence in the investigation of the bribery scheme.

In the four years of his presidency, US President Trump has granted 29 pardons and commuted sentences of 16 people, according to official data by the US Pardon Attorney’s office. More pardons are expected by Trump in his final weeks in the White House. Evidently, a number of these pardons have been given to people close to Trump.

Last week, Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. As per reports, Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have also discussed the possibilities of a pardon before he leaves office. However, Giuliani tweeted to deny any discussion with the President for a pardon. Meanwhile, the US President has dismissed reports of the Justice Department’s investigation in the bribery-for-pardon scheme as “fake news”.

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