Federal officials have been investigating since August whether someone tried to bribe an official or officials in the White House in exchange for presidential pardon, a federal court order that was unsealed on Tuesday revealed.

The heavily redacted order signed by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, appointed by then-President Barack Obama and who supervised the grand jury empaneled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign, described a “bribery-for-pardon” investigation, several media outlets reported.

Howell’s order claimed federal investigators had obtained information indicating a scheme in which someone “would offer a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence.”

Investigators approached Howell, who is a district judge in the District of Columbia, for permission to intercept electronic communications and review other documents – seized as a result of a search warrant — between a lawyer and clients suspected in the probe who were not identified. Howell granted the request in August, determining client-attorney privilege did not apply.

About half the of the 18-page document was redacted, including all names, making it unclear if anybody in the White House was even aware of the matter.

“This political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from” one individual’s role as an attorney advocate for someone else, Howell wrote.


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