More details have emerged about an alleged White House-linked pardon-bribe scheme investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year. It’s both more and less juicy than we initially thought, but most importantly it’s not clear that it ever really got to the White House.
Here’s the scheme: Hugh Baras was convicted on tax evasion and Social Security fraud. Baras is, basically, just a guy, but his friend is billionaire Sanford Diller and Diller offered a political contribution in exchange for a pardon for Baras. Diller pitched his pardon-bribe plan to Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser, who referred him to Abbe Lowell. Broidy later pleaded guilty to an unrelated lobbying violation. Also, Diller died in 2018, and so the whole thing dried up. Baras is no longer in prison because his sentence was a whopping 30 months.
Abbe Lowell is the personal attorney to Jared Kushner, though, and the fact that Broidy suggested Lowell might be receptive at all stirred at least some alarm in the Department of Justice. As the New York Times notes, “the scheme outlined by prosecutors underscores the transactional nature of Mr. Trump’s term, where people leveraged connections to him or framed their causes in terms of his personal or political benefit to influence his decisions.” The transactional nature of not just the administration but the Republican Party has been evident for a while now, so much so that attorney Devin Stone – known for his “LegalEagle” series on YouTube and Nebula – predicted Tuesday that Broidy would be involved based solely on the fact that Broidy has a history of unscrupulous lobbying (an attorney for Broidy says that referring Diller to Lowell is “not lobbying, and Mr. Broidy is not under investigation and has not been accused by anyone of any wrongdoing whatsoever,”).
The Department of Justice has not commented on the investigation. There is no evidence that Lowell considered the pardon, brought it up to Kushner, or informed President Trump.