New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman wants to change state law so that he can bring criminal charges against individuals who have been previously pardoned by President Donald Trump.
In an April 18 letter addressed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as to the majority and minority leaders in the state Senate and the speaker and minority leader in the state assembly, Schneiderman argues that the current law needs to be updated. The proposed law would have to pass the state Legislature, and be signed by Cuomo.
Here’s what you need to know
If it becomes law, Schneiderman’s proposal would have a very narrow focus. It would apply to people who could be indicted on a state level after being pardoned for a similar crime on a federal level. The president does not have the authority to pardon someone convicted on a state level.
Double jeopardy law, enshrined in the Fifth Amendment, prevents a U.S. citizen from being prosecuted twice by the federal government for the same crime. Similar laws exist at the state level. Many states, including New York, have their own laws in place mandating that a person tried for a crime on a federal level cannot also be tried on a state level for the same crime.
“The President’s power to pardon federal crimes is sweeping and subject to limited review by other branches of government. Our country’s founders argued this power was ‘benign’ and would be used by presidents with ‘scrupulousness and caution.’ Thus far, they have generally been right. Since the founding, presidents have used this power sparingly, largely to do justice, rather than subvert it.”
“Yet recent reports indicate that the President may be considering issuing pardons that may impede criminal investigations. This is disturbing news, not only because it would undermine public confidence in the rule of law, but also because – due to a little known feature of New York law that appears to be unique in its reach – a strategically-timed pardon could prevent individuals who may have violated our State’s laws from standing trial in our courts as well. My staff has researched the relevant state statute and its legislative history, and can find no evidence that the Legislature intended this result. Therefore, I write to urge you to amend a law that may prevent state prosecutors from pursuing vilations of state criminal law after a presidential pardon.”
Schneiderman vs. Trump
This is not the first time that Schneiderman has gone after President Trump. In 2013, Schneiderman brought a fraud case against Trump, accusing him of scamming people through his Trump University. On November 18, 2016, Schneiderman announced that the lawsuit was over, and that Trump had agreed to pay a $25 million settlement.
He also filed a lawsuit on April 3 to block the Trump administration from being able to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., have also been investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for a variety of charges.