Report: DOJ investigated top GOP donor, Kushner lawyer in suspected pardon scheme

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As recently as this summer, the Department of Justice investigated the roles of Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser, and Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, in an alleged scheme to pay a bribe in exchange for a pardon, two people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.

On Tuesday, redacted court documents were unsealed that showed the existence of the investigation into possible unregistered lobbying and bribery. People familiar with the case told the Times that Sanford Diller, a billionaire real estate developer from the San Francisco area, solicited help from Broidy and Lowell in an attempt to get clemency for Hugh Baras, a psychologist from Berkeley who received a 30-month prison sentence after being convicted of tax evasion and improperly claiming Social Security benefits.

The Times reports that Diller was set to make "a substantial political contribution" to an unspecified recipient in order for the pardon to be made, and the court documents state that as part of the effort, the White House Counsel's Office was approached by someone who wanted to make sure the "clemency petition reached the targeted officials." Diller died in February 2018, and the Times says there is no evidence that the plan moved ahead following his death.

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No one has been charged in this inquiry, and a Justice Department official said no member of the government is "currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing." Reid Weingarten, a lawyer for Lowell, confirmed to the Times that his client did represent Baras, who never received clemency. Broidy's attorney, William Burck, told the Times his client was asked by Diller to assist on a clemency petition, and it was not a lobbying effort. Both Weingarten and Burck downplayed the investigation, with Weingarten saying it was "much ado about precious little."

Broidy was a top fundraising official for Trump's inauguration and later became the deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee. In October, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act in connection with another case involving an attempt to influence the Trump administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.

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