New York’s Attorney General just took a major step towards closing a legal loophole that President Trump might try to use to rescue members of the Trump family, campaign and his embattled Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen from criminal prosecution.
NY AG Eric Schneiderman sent a letter (embedded below) to the state’s Governor and the two leaders of New York’s Assembly and Senate, asking them to quickly draft and pass legislation to narrow the scope of double jeopardy protections in criminal prosecutions to recipients of a presidential pardon.
New York law gives criminal defendants some additional protections from double jeopardy that other states do not, with 12 exceptions. Schneiderman’s memo asks lawmakers to add the 13th exception to allow state prosecutors to use America’s unique dual sovereignty system to make sure no president, or his family and friends, can hold themselves above the law. The Times reports:
“We are disturbed by reports that the president is considering pardons of individuals who may have committed serious federal financial, tax, and other crimes — acts that may also violate New York law,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement provided by his office.
The move, if approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature, would serve notice that the legal troubles of the president and his aides may continue without the efforts of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
New York is a blue state with a Democratic governor, but there’s no guarantee that their artificially divided Senate will pass the bill.
Right now, Republicans – in a coalition with some Democrats – hold a narrow one-vote advantage and the majority thanks to the selfish machinations of Governor Andrew Cuomo but there are two upcoming special elections on April 24th in the New York City suburbs where Hillary Clinton lives, which could flip the body.
State laws today indicate that if there is a presidential pardon after a federal jury is empaneled, then the criminal defendants cannot later face a New York indictment.
Schneiderman explained in his letter would defeat the legislature’s intent to give relief to those justifiably charged and acquitted of consecutive trials. It would be well within New York’s precedent to pass a law targeting crooked real estate developers like Trump to make sure they don’t skate for state crimes.
Leona Helmsley was a Manhattan hotelier and contemporary of Trump who famously declared that “We don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes.”
New York AG Schneiderman has been a major foil of Donald Trump’s, only last week finalizing the state’s $4 million cut of the $25 million settlement to victims of the Trump University scam.
Now, Eric Schneiderman has sent the clearest signal yet that he intends to back up Special Counsel Mueller’s prosecutions and also any matters that the US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York is investigating.
Read NY AG Eric Schneiderman’s complete letter to New York’s lawmakers here: