DOJ investigates pay-for-pardon bribery probe as Trump slams ‘fake news’
President Trump is shrugging off the bombshell news that the feds are investigating a scheme to score a pardon in exchange for a political donation, calling it “fake news.”
The president lashed out on Twitter but did not specifically deny involvement or knowledge of the alleged conspiracy that would have required him to sign off on clemency for an unnamed big-money supporter.
“Pardon investigation is fake news,” Trump raged, without elaborating.
The Justice Department released a heavily redacted order Tuesday night from a top federal judge that included tantalizing details about the explosive and ongoing probe.
The 20-page order from Chief Judge Beryl Howell, the same jurist who oversaw the work of the grand jury in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, focuses her ruling on communications between the person seeking the pardon and their lawyer should not be covered by attorney-client privilege.
The unidentified pardon-seeker is a wealthy and well-connected political donor who is either behind bars now or facing federal charges, the order suggests.
Only the president can grant pardons so the person looking to pay the bribe — described as a “large political donation” — would eventually need Trump’s approval.
The order does not make not clear if Trump was involved in or even aware of the scheme.
The Justice Department rushed to put out a statement noting that no current Trump officials are currently “subjects” of the investigation. But that could be legalese for prosecutors are still trying to get someone to spill the rest of the beans.
The disclosure, which the Justice Department unsuccessfully sought to block, could raise questions about any future Trump pardons before he leaves the White House on Jan. 20. The president has unlimited power to issue pardons, but cannot grant a get-out-of-jail card in exchange for a bribe or anything else of value.