President Donald Trump has discussed with his adviser whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his three children, Eric, Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr., as well as to his son-in-law Jared Kushner and lawyer Rudy Giuliani, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
According to the Times, Trump has recently expressed concerns that the Justice Department under the administration of President-elect Joe Biden would seek to open criminal proceedings against those close to him.
According to two sources familiar with the matter, Trump discussed with Giuliani the option of granting him a pre-emptive pardon last week.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department said it was investigating a potential crime related to funneling money to the White House in exchange for a presidential pardon, according to court documents unsealed in federal court.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell on Tuesday released a heavily redacted order that described what she called a "bribery-for-pardon" investigation.
About half of the 18-page document was blacked out, with the publicly available version providing few details of the alleged scheme, and naming none of the people potentially involved.
It said federal prosecutors in Washington said they had obtained evidence of a bribery scheme in which someone "would offer a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence."
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The order said prosecutors were also investigating a "secret lobbying scheme" in which two unidentified individuals "acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials, without complying with the registration requirement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act."
The Justice Department had to ask Howell's permission to view certain emails between a lawyer and clients, who were not identified.
Howell granted the request in August, saying attorney-client privilege did not apply in that instance.
Prosecutors had said they planned to "confront" three unnamed individuals with the communications and finish their investigation.
According to Howell's order, government investigators said they had seized "over fifty digital media devices, including iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives, and computer and external hard drives."
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Presidents enjoy wide latitude under the U.S. Constitution in pardoning people convicted of federal crimes. Trump last week pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
That was the first of what is expected to be a string of pardons in Trump's final weeks in the White House.
According to Howell's order, the Justice Department had recently told her it wanted to keep the investigation from becoming public because it detailed "individuals and conduct" that had not yet been charged.
A department official later said that no government official is the "subject or target" of investigation.