Court records unsealed on Tuesday showed the Department of Justice is investigating a potential bribe for pardon scheme under which unnamed individuals lobbied for presidential clemency in exchange of monetary reward.
The 20-page court document was reviewed and signed by Federal Judge Beryl Howell in August this year. The judge reviewed a government request to obtain communications related to a secret lobbying scheme for presidential pardon.
"The political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was 'parallel' to and distinct from [redacted]'s role as an attorney-advocate for [redacted name]," the judge wrote in the order.
The names of all individuals mentioned in the court order are redacted. The Department of Justice also clarified that no government official was or is currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing, according to CNN.
No Proof of Money Exchanged
The prosecutors did not provide the judge proof of any money having been exchanged. However, they submitted evidence to prove that the subject sought presidential pardon in view of their past and future political contributions.
Though the expose has come at a time speculation is intense over who are in President Donald Trump's list of federal pardons in the final weeks of his presidency, the document does not reveal a timeline of the alleged scheme.
However, the expose happened on a day when the New York Times reported that President's lawyer Rudy Giuliani had sought the possibility of getting a presidential pardon.
While the White House declined comment on the development, President Trump tweeted it was 'fake news.'
'Substantial Political Contribution Offered'
The scam unfolded when a filter team, tasked with ensuring prosecutors don't get tainted evidence, accessed as many as 50 digital devices including iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives and computer drives. Further probe led the prosecutors to the belief that the devices contained emails that showed criminal activity. In the alleged plot, the conspirators offered a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence."
Though much of the focus is on President Trump in the waning days of his presidency as to who he will pardon next, the records show that Trump has been particularly frugal in awarding clemency. He has only given 29 pardons and 16 commutations so far. There's expectation that more pardons and commutations will happen before he exits office.