In a potentially explosive development in the waning days of outgoing President Donald Trump’s administration, the Justice Department is investigating an alleged “bribery-for-pardon” scheme involving cash payments to the White House or its associates in exchange for a presidential pardon.
The heavily-redacted court records unsealed Tuesday in federal court do not name any individuals involved nor do they mention President Trump, or whether any officials in the White House were acquainted with the scheme.
However, the legal drama that the records hint at create new, dark clouds over the outgoing administration after a number of his top associates and advisers have faced federal criminal charges while Trump has openly mulled pardoning those who have proven their loyalty to him.
In 20 pages of partially redacted documents unsealed by the DC District Court, the question is discussed of whether prosecutors can review documents that are potentially protected by attorney-client privilege and were seized after a search warrant.
The records also reveal Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell’s Aug. 28 opinion on an ongoing investigation involving at least two figures who “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” an individual whose name is redacted.
In the review, the judge noted that the communications could be reviewed by investigators because the email discussion involved a non-attorney.
“This political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from one individual’s role as an attorney advocate for” another individual, the ruling added, with both names involved being redacted.
According to the filings, the communications were seized from an office in a raid that occurred at some point prior to the end of summer 2020.
During the raid, a filter team – meant to ensure that prosecutors don’t receive tainted evidence that should not have fallen into their hands because it was privileged – had over 50 digital devices, including smartphones, tablet computers, laptops, thumb drives and hard drives after investigators raided the undisclosed offices, reports CNN.
In the court documents, prosecutors requested access to the filter team’s trove of devices. This is because the prosecutors believed that the holdings showed alleged crimes such as a “secret lobbying scheme” and bribery conspiracy that solicited “a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence” for a defendant who was convicted, according to the redacted records.
“The political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from [redacted]’s role as an attorney-advocate for [redacted name],” Judge Howell wrote in the court order.
A grand jury investigation was also revealed, and appears to relate to unnamed parties who acted as unregistered “lobbyists to senior White House officials” and pursued pardons while using an intermediary to transmit bribes, the records say.
However, prosecutors have not provided evidence to the judge of any direct payment. Instead, they showed evidence that the redacted person was seeking clemency in return for past and future contributions to a political campaign.
Over the last week, the Department of Justice has informed Judge Howell that it wants the filings to reman confidential in court because “individuals and conduct” have not been publicly charged with any crimes related to the potential scheme.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.