The U.S. Justice Department is conducting an investigation into a bribe-for-pardon scheme, as well as whether high-level donors may be lobbying White House officials for a pardon.
The August court order from U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, was unsealed Tuesday and does not identify individuals by name. More than 50 laptops, iPads and other digital devices have been seized, according to the document.
“The heavily redacted documents revealed Tuesday do not name the individuals involved or President Donald Trump,” NBC News reported. “They also do not indicate if any White House officials had knowledge of the scheme.”
Trump’s associates are making appeals to him in the hopes of obtaining pardons before he leaves office, a source told CNN on Tuesday.
The source also said the list of associates, perhaps seeking preemptive pardons, includes Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who has denied discussing a preemptive pardon with the president. He further denied that he has talked to anyone at the White House about a pardon for himself.
Trump on Tuesday evening tweeted: “Pardon investigation is Fake News!”
One of those seeking a pardon is a wealthy, well-connected political donor who is either behind bars or facing federal charges, the order suggests.
A Justice Department statement noted that no current Trump officials are currently “subjects” of the investigation, but that could be legalese for prosecutors still trying to elicit evidence from those involved.
The court order grants investigators access to email communications connected to the alleged schemes that Howell said were not protected by attorney-client privilege. The document’s disclosure likely will spur questions about any Trump pardons before he leaves the White House on Jan. 20. The president has unlimited power to issue pardons, but cannot grant them in exchange for a bribe or anything else of value.