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Fundraiser and lawyer among those probed in ‘bribery for pardon’ claims


Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A former Trump fundraiser and a prominent lawyer were among the people scrutinised by the US justice department for their roles in what a judge described as a possible bribery scheme to win a presidential pardon for a convicted felon, lawyers for the men said.

Lawyer Abbe Lowell’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, said his client was never a target or subject in the inquiry. Mr Lowell has, in the past, represented Donal Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Former fundraiser Elliot Broidy’s attorney, William Burck, said his client was “not under investigation and has not been accused by anyone of any wrongdoing whatsoever”.

No one has been charged in the investigation, the status of which is unclear.

The New York Times reported Mr Lowell and Mr Broidy’s roles in the case on Thursday. A federal judge released a redacted document which revealed the justice department had obtained possible evidence of bribery in which someone “would offer a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon”.

The court documents did not disclose details of the alleged crime or the identities of those involved. The justice department had to ask the judge’s permission to view certain emails between a lawyer and clients. The judge granted the request in August, finding attorney-client privilege did not apply. At the time, US president Donald Trump described the investigation as “fake news” on Twitter.

The New York Times reported that the efforts to secure clemency were focused on a Berkeley, California-based psychologist, Hugh Baras, who was convicted in 2014 of tax evasion and improperly claiming social security benefits.

As part of the plan, a San Francisco real estate developer, Sanford Diller, would make an unspecified political contribution, it added. Mr Diller died in 2018.

In October – several months after the justice department won the request to review the emails in the inquiry – Mr Broidy pleaded guilty in a separate case to illegally lobbying Mr Trump to drop an investigation into a Malaysian embezzlement scandal.

Nothing in those court documents in Mr Broidy’s case made reference to conduct concerning the bribery probe.

Mr Broidy’s attorney, Mr Burck, said his client’s only role in the matter was putting Mr Diller in contact with Mr Lowell. Mr Baras, who was jailed for more than two years, did not receive clemency from the White House. He was released from prison in August 2019, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Mr Lowell’s attorney, Mr Weingarten, confirmed to Reuters that Mr Lowella – a well-respected white-collar lawyer who has represented high-profile clients including Mr Kushner, Senator Bob Menendez and Jack Abramoff – did represent Mr Baras.

“Abbe’s lawyering was utterly normal,” Mr Weingarten said on Thursday. “Not exciting, not interesting and not successful. But by the book. There was no bribe, there was no promise of a bribe, and there was no clemency. There was no relief. The guy went to jail.”

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Mr Weingarten added that when he last spoke with justice department officials about the inquiry, “they left me with the impression they didn’t have the slightest quarrel with anything Abbe did””

A justice department official told reporters that no government officials are the subject of the probe disclosed in the court filing.

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