New York seeks authority to prosecute despite presidential pardons

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) on Wednesday asked state lawmakers to amend the law so that prosecutors can charge individuals who have benefitted from a presidential pardon.

New York’s existing law states that if an individual pleads guilty or is convicted of a federal crime and then is pardoned by the president, prosecutors cannot bring charges for violating state laws because of a double-jeopardy rule that stipulates a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice.

Schneiderman wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and leaders of the state legislature to argued that as a result of the current policy, a “strategically-timed pardon” could protect individuals who have violated New York state laws. 

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As a result, Schneiderman is asking that state lawmakers change the New York statute so that double-jeopardy protections do not apply to cases involving presidential pardons.

“New York’s statutory protections could result in the unintended and unjust consequence of insulating someone pardoned for serious federal crimes from subsequent prosecution for state crimes — even if that person was never tried or convicted in federal court, and never served a single day in federal prison,” Schneiderman wrote.

In explaining the need for the change, Schneiderman cited recent reports that President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE may be considering pardons that could impede criminal investigations. The Supreme Court has ruled the president cannot pardon an individual for state crimes.

The request came following last week's FBI raids on Michael Cohen, Trump's personal attorney. Trump has denounced the action, taken in conjunction with the local U.S. attorney's office after a referral from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, as a violation of attorney–client privilege. 

The Washington Post reported after the raid that Cohen is under criminal investigation for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

The White House has denied that Trump is considering pardons "at this time" for any of his former associates caught up in Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

Trump last week pardoned I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted for lying to the FBI regarding the leak of the identity of an CIA agent.

In light of that pardon, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffInternet security leader: Hackers are 'trying to undermine very process of democracy' Republicans and Democrats alike face troubling signals from voters Schiff blasts GOP for Russia probe conduct: 'That's how you obstruct an investigation, not how you conduct one' MORE (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would give Congress oversight of any pardon that Trump grants to a subject of the Russia investigation or to a member of his family. 

"There are unsettling indications that President Trump could use the expansive pardon power granted by the Constitution as an instrument to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation and other investigations into his business, family or his associates," Schiff wrote in a statement introducing the bill.