The US Justice Department has spent months investigating a “bribery-for-pardon scheme,” even as President Donald Trump was running for reelection, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday.
In a 20-page heavily redacted opinion, dated August 28 but posted Tuesday evening, US District Judge Beryl Howell wrote that attorney-client privilege didn’t protect certain communications if they were alleged to be part of a “bribery-for-pardon scheme.” The communications involved in the bribery investigation had been copied to a third party who was not an attorney, the opinion stated.
“In sum, the attorney-client privilege does not protect communications disclosed to third parties and, here [redacted] was such a third party to each of the emails submitted by the government,” the August 28 opinion states. Howell, chief judge of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, presided over special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The court documents reveal that dozens of devices were seized after an unidentified office was searched in response to a warrant. The federal agents were investigating a “secret lobbying scheme” in which certain people “acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials, without complying with the registration requirement,” to secure “a pardon or reprieve of sentence.”
The filings did not reveal the names of specific individuals or provide the dates of the alleged actions.