Donald Trump’s own Justice Department investigated President behind his back
The New York Times reported that an investigation by the Department of Justice is looking into the roles that a top fundraiser for Trump and a lawyer for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, might have played in a suspected bribery-for-pardon scheme.
Recently unsealed court documents revealed that the DOJ was looking into the matter in August of 2020. The documents have been heavily redacted, therefore no individuals were named but it indicated that the people involved may have tried to secretly bribe White House officials for clemency.
The investigation probed Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell and Trump campaign fundraiser Elliot Broidy, two people close to the situation told The Times.
In October, Broidy pleaded guilty in to a charge of a different effort to lobby White House officials.
The Times report revealed that a San Francisco real estate developer, billionaire Sanford Diller, asked for help in obtaining clemency for Hugh Baras, a Berkeley psychologist sentenced to 30 months in prison for tax evasion and Social Security benefit fraud. Lowell acted as counsel for Mr. Baras.
In the alleged scheme, Diller planned to “make a substantial political contribution” to an unnamed individual in exchange for the pardon.
Since Diller died in 2018, there is no evidence that the plan went forth after that time. Eventually, Baras was imprisoned from June 2017 to August 2019.
A DOJ official told The Times that no government officials are “currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing.” Trump tweeted about the matter, saying, “Pardon Investigation is Fake News!”
Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the files to be unsealed to give prosecutors access to emails to aid in the investigation of the alleged scheme.
The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 states that all lobbying activities must be reported to the clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate. Participants in this reported scheme could be in violation of bribery and lobbying laws by failing to disclose the lobbying activities.
There was speculation that Trump was considering a slew of pre-emptive pardons before Jan. 20, including ones that might involve three of his kids, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, as well as Jared Kushner and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. This never occured.
Trump pardoned numerous personal friends and allies throughout his presidency, and continued his pattern of pardoning criminals who had served him even in his final hours on January 20.
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