US probes 'secret lobbying scheme' to seek presidential pardon
WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department is investigating an alleged bribery scheme involving campaign donations to secure a presidential pardon, a court filing showed Tuesday.
The document, which discusses the legality of searching communications and electronic devices of individuals, including attorneys, is highly redacted, with all identifying information blacked out.
But it refers to a "secret lobbying scheme" directed at "senior White House officials" to gain a presidential "pardon or reprieve of sentence" for an unnamed individual.
The scheme, under investigation since at least August, appears to have involved lobbyists and lawyers, a well-heeled donor to political campaigns, and a man or woman who is or was in prison and is hoping for presidential intervention.
The filing indicates that the lobbyists and lawyers contacted White House officials requesting a presidential pardon or reprieve, citing the "past substantial campaign contributions" and "anticipated future substantial political contributions" from a donor.
The document does not show when the actions involved took place, and in the sections not redacted there is no reference to President Donald Trump or his campaign.
Mr Trump tweeted late Tuesday: "Pardon investigation is Fake News!"
The New York Times reported that Mr Trump has discussed granting pre-emptive pardons to his lawyer, Mr Rudy Giuliani, his three oldest children and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Meanwhile, US Attorney-General William Barr said on Tuesday the Justice Department has found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in last month's election, even as Mr Trump kept up his flailing legal efforts to reverse his loss to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.
Mr Barr, who has been frequently accused by Democrats of politicising law enforcement, told the Associated Press: "To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election. - AFP, REUTERS