Dear Commons Community,
The New York State Legislature is taking aim at restricting President Trump’s presidential pardon powers. Yesterday it passed legislation tightening a “double-jeopardy loophole” that could undermine potential pardons by President Donald Trump.
The state Assembly passed a measure that would permit authorities to bring state charges against individuals who have received presidential pardons for similar federal crimes.
“Our democracy survives because we have checks and balances,” Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D) said during Tuesday’s vote, according to Courthouse News’ Adam Klasfeld.
The bill heads now to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for a signature.
Proponents of the bill say it’s necessary to ensure that state investigations into Trump, his family and associates aren’t derailed by potential presidential pardons.
“Right now the president’s threatened use of the pardon power is very troubling. It would be done to undermine an investigation to help out friends and family members,” state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who sponsored the bill, told NPR on Tuesday.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who spearheaded the effort to change the loophole, applauded the bill’s passage on Tuesday.
“Double jeopardy exists to prevent someone from being charged twice for the same crime, not to allow them to evade justice altogether,” James wrote.
Last summer, Cuomo pledged to sign legislation closing the double jeopardy loophole “the same day” lawmakers passed it.
“New York must have the ability to stand up against the abuse of power,” Cuomo wrote in August.
The governor referenced Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, who was indicted for tax and bank fraud as well as conspiracy. The president has hinted at a potential pardon for Manafort for the federal charges. The bill passed by New York’s Assembly on Tuesday would essentially ensure Manafort could still be prosecuted for the state charges.
These are interesting developments that portend of lots of legal challenges if and when they are enforced. Regardless, they subject Trump and others to a whole other level of scrutiny.