The Justice Department is investigating a bribery program that directed money to the White House or used political contributions in exchange for presidential pardon, according to court documents released Tuesday.
The Washington District Court has published 20 pages of heavily revised documents that do not include either the subject matter of the investigation or the timing of the alleged system.
The government’s motion was originally filed under the seal with Chief Justice Beryl A. Howell in order to obtain permission to review certain prosecutors and client communications prosecutors who allegedly proved to be “criminal activity.” The filter team, working on behalf of the government, went through several terabytes of data, which it seized from more than 50 electronic devices such as an iPhone, iPad, laptop, thumb drive and hard drive.
Prosecutors asked the court for permission to review e-mail communications that they said revealed a “bribery conspiracy system in which [redacted] would make a significant political contribution to presidential grace or [redacted]. ”
On Tuesday night, after the court document was released, an official from the Department of Justice tried to quell guesses as to who might be targeting the probe. “No government official has been, or is not currently, the subject or target of the investigation uncovered in the present file,” the official said.
Documents released Tuesday include Howell’s order dated Aug. 28, which allowed the Department of Justice to review communications uncovered in the context of a pardon for bribery.
“The political strategy for obtaining presidential grace is ‘parallel’ and separate from it [redacted]the role of lawyer in his case [redacted]Howell wrote in the order.
The documents show that the unknown person has been sentenced to prison and surrenders to the Prisons Bureau. The government points out that no communication has been found in previous months that has linked counsel to the unknown individual. “[redacted]surrenders to BOP custody. “
The investigation also extended to unidentified individuals who “acted as lobbyists for senior White House officials” to help secure grace.
Finally, Howell allowed the government to review certain email communications involving unknown parties and stated, “The investigation team may therefore review and use such communications to counter the subjects and objectives of the investigation.” However, certain communications that do not contain a specific person and appear to be legitimate legal advice that are not related to the alleged system are rejected.
Although the court’s statement indicates that the investigation was ongoing over the summer, it is unclear whether the charges will be brought before a grand jury for the time being or never. The document contains a statement from the government, which last week opposed the publication of the months-long request, saying it “identifies the persons and conduct that the Grand Jury did not accuse”. However, the judge asked them to work out a revised version of the order to make the decision public. The housing of the case remains under seal.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said the ministry was investigating the matter. The White House did not want to comment.
Paulina Smolinski contributed to the report.