The Justice Department’s investigation into a possible plan to lobby the Trump administration for presidential pardon – news that was notable earlier this week – was allegedly carried out by a now-deceased California real estate tycoon on behalf of a Berkeley psychologist. nak.
None of the figures are known in Washington, but the allegedly billionaire Republican donor, Sanford Diller, a lawyer hired to represent the psychologist, was Abbe Lowell, one of the most significant and powerful DC lawyers, sources told ABC News.
Lowell did not respond to ABC News email and phone messages. Reid Weingarten, a friend and attorney at Lowell, confirmed that Lowell had represented Barast in the case. He said no bribes were paid.
“Abbe believed there were legitimate arguments that this guy shouldn’t spend time. Seeking grace is a perfectly normal way,” Weingarten said. “The fact that he did this – there’s nothing wrong.”
Sources told ABC News that in early 2017, Diller tried to identify a well-connected lawyer in Washington who could help get mercy for his friend, a psychologist named Berkeley Hugh Leslie Baras. In 2014, Barast, then 70, was convicted of tax fraud and theft of government property and sentenced to 30 months in prison.
According to sources, Diller sought advice from Elliott Broidy, a well-connected fundraiser for Trump, who is later plunged into his own legal complication. Broidy pleaded guilty in October to violating foreign lobbying laws. He did not wish to comment through the spokesman.
William Burck, Broidy’s attorney, told ABC News that Mr. Droid had asked Broidy to refer him to a DC attorney who could help with a pardon petition. Mr. Broidy sent it to Abbe Lowell.
According to Burck, this was a measure of Broidy’s involvement that he said should not be interpreted as lobbying. He says there is no investigation against Broidy and “no one has accused him of any violation.”
After Broidy introduced Diller to Lowell, sources say it is unclear what happened next. Weingarten said he suspects that Diller was very enthusiastic about Lowell offering grace to his friend.
“What I’m sure of is that Diller was deeply attached to the doctor and was a demanding billionaire,” Weingarten said. “The billionaire in San Francisco contributed to a huge campaign and looked with unrealistic anticipation of what that meant for the juice he had – which it wasn’t at all.”
Diller died in 2018 and Baras received no presidential pardon.
According to records from online prisons, Baras was released from prison in 2019. ABC News’s efforts to reach Baras have failed.
A complicated aspect of the request for pardon was that Lowell repeatedly wore several hats who would have represented Barast and Kushner. Lowell also represented a cooperating witness in a subsequent case against Broidy, which was part of a long-running investigation.
Weingarten said Lowell never turned to Kushner on the Barasi pardon case.
“There’s no connection to Jared Kushner,” Lowell’s lawyer said. “He never asked Jared Kushner for anything related to this client – or any other client who had anything to do with grace.”
Documents released on Tuesday show that the Department of Justice has launched an investigation to secure pardon. Documents sealed by the Chief Justice of the DC District Court show that government investigators have seized computers, telephones and other equipment related to the investigation.
Court documents describe an investigation that was allegedly a “secret lobbying program” and contacted senior White House officials to grant “pardon or revocation of punishment” to an unknown person.
“No government official has been or is not currently the subject or target of the investigation described in this petition,” a DOJ official said in a statement late late Tuesday.
Weingarten told ABC News that “there is every reason to believe that the Department of Justice has not the slightest quarrel with anything Abbe has done.”
The petition notes that some of the communications in question seized by the government were taken from the office of an unknown lawyer at the end of last summer. It is not clear whether this came from Lowell.
According to documents, the government in August requested a court order “to the investigation team [could] access “to certain communications and confrontation with individuals in the case in order to take” investigative steps necessary to complete the investigation “.
President Donald Trump tweeted earlier this week that news of the alleged pardon system was “fake news.”