The US Justice Department investigated a cash-for-pardons scandal involving the White House according to documents filed in a federal court, amid reports that President Donald Trump is weighing further pardons before his presidential term ends.
The heavily-redacted filing lodged in the Washington DC court, shows that federal prosecutors as recently as August investigated the proposed scheme in which individuals approached senior White House officials offering money in exchange for a pardon for someone who was in prison.
The status of the investigation is unclear, but a justice department official said that no White House official was a target of the investigation. Mr Trump dismissed the investigation as “fake news”.
The development emerged as the New York Times reported that Mr Trump has considered pardoning his three eldest children and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, before he leaves office on January 20th.
Mr Trump’s son Donald jnr was investigated during the Mueller investigation, while Mr Kushner gave erroneous information to officials for his White House security clearance, though neither was charged.
Presidential pardons are a feature of the final months of most presidencies. Last week Mr Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Mike Flynn who twice admitted lying to the FBI.
The president continued to claim yesterday on Twitter that he would “win” the election, despite losing last month’s contest to his Democratic rival Joe Biden. “We will win!” he declared on Twitter.
Asked at a press briefing in the White House if Mr Trump still believed he had a path to victory, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that he is “just looking for every legal vote to be counted”.
“The president has said that he believes all legal votes should be counted, and all illegal votes should not be counted and in fact the campaign is pursuing that litigation. They do still have active cases in Nevada and Wisconsin.”
Ms McEnany was speaking after attorney general Bill Barr said in an interview on Tuesday that the justice department had uncovered no election fraud “on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election”.
His comments to the Associated Press were some of the strongest indications yet from a senior cabinet member that Mr Trump’s claims that he may still win the election are unfounded.
In Georgia, a local election official excoriated Mr Trump for failing to condemn threats against election staff, as the president continues to dispute the outcome of the election there and ahead of two senate elections next month.
“Mr President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia. We’re investigating, there’s always a possibility, I get it, you have the right to go through the courts,” Gabriel Sterling said. “What you don’t have the ability to do, and you need to step up and say this, is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt. Someone is going to get shot. Someone is going to get killed. And it’s not right.”
Mr Trump is due to campaign for both Republican candidates in the January 5th run-offs on Saturday in Georgia. He described the event as a “rally” yesterday on Twitter.