The Justice Department is investigating a potential bribery case related to the president’s pardoning powers.
Federal court documents unsealed Tuesday mention of a possible crime that involves funneling money to the White House or a related political committee in exchange for a presidential pardon.
In 20 pages of partially redacted documents made public by the D.C. District Court in the apparently waning days of President Trump’s term in office, Chief Judge Beryl Howell reviewed a request from prosecutors for documents seized as part of a bribery-for-pardon investigation.
“Email communications have been identified ‘indicat[ing] additional criminal activity’ namely (1) a ‘secret lobbying scheme’ in which [redacted] and [redacted] acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials without complying with the registration requirement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act to secure a ‘pardon or reprieve of sentence for [redacted],” Judge Howell wrote in her order.
The court also found “(2) a related bribery conspiracy scheme, in which [redacted] would offer a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence for [redacted].”
Mr. Trump took to Twitter later Tuesday evening to denounce news reports of the judge’s ruling.
“Pardon investigation is Fake News!” he wrote, without elaboration.
According to a report on CNN, the few unredacted details do not fit any known public charges of a related crime.
“The filings don’t reveal a timeline of the alleged scheme, or any names of people potentially involved, except that communications between people including at least one lawyer were seized from an office that was raided sometime before the end of this summer,” CNN wrote.
The court documents also do not specify whether a bribe was ever formally offered, much less accepted.
According to CNN, law enforcement last summer had more than 50 digital devices including iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives and computer drives from the raids on the unidentified offices.
Prosecutors told the court, according to the documents, they wanted access to those holdings, and Judge Howell agreed to provide them.
The White House had no immediate comment.
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, gave his interpretation of the investigation on MSNBC.
“An attorney with a client was representing that client not in a legal way, but attempting to, through the use of bribery, secure a pardon,” Mr. Schiff said. “That itself would be a crime. If the president was involved, he would not be immune from prosecution for it.”
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.