New York Moves to Ensure Trump Pardons Can’t Nix State Charges
A presidential pardon won’t be enough to clear someone associated with the commander-in-chief of similar state charges under legislation approved by New York state lawmakers Tuesday.
The bill, which now moves to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, revises the exceptions to the state’s double jeopardy law in an effort to ensure the state’s ongoing investigations into the Republican president and his associates can’t be derailed by a White House pardon.
Attorney General Letitia James had pushed for the law, which she said will eliminate a “gaping loophole” that could have allowed someone pardoned by Trump to argue similar state charges should be dismissed.
“This loophole, which effectively allows the president to pardon state crimes, must be closed,” James, a Democrat, told reporters after the bill passed the Assembly Tuesday. She said presidential pardons shouldn’t “be used as a get-out-of-jail-free card.”
Republicans argued the bill is a partisan attack on Trump and accused Democrats of trying to rewrite the law to prepare for hypothetical pardons that may never be issued.
Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, called the measure “a sharp poke in the eye” of the president. He said his Democratic colleagues were using the bill “to express a political statement about our current president, about things he hasn’t done.”
Democrats said the bill isn’t designed to target a particular president, but to safeguard the state’s ability to enforce its own laws.
“We’re trying to root out corruption and abuse of presidential power,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol, D-Brooklyn.
Still, some lawmakers made it clear that they had a specific commander in chief in mind when they voted yes Tuesday.
“We are dealing with a criminal in the White House,” Assemblyman Michael Blake, D-the Bronx, said of Trump.
Twenty-four states already have laws making it clear that presidential pardons do not cover state charges, according to Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Island and the bill’s Senate sponsor.
The new exception wouldn’t apply to all presidential pardons. Instead, the legislation spells out several categories of people for whom presidential pardons would not be sufficient: members of a president’s family, their government and campaign staff, employees of a president’s private business or nonprofit, as well as anyone else who prosecutors believe may have conspired with an associate of the president.
Prosecutors in New York are in the midst of several investigations related to Trump and his associates, including Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, who is now serving time in federal prison for tax and bank fraud.
A message left with the White House was not immediately returned Tuesday evening.