The state of New York is at it again. First they shut down the Trump Foundation for illegal activities. Then, they passed a state law to make a president's state income taxes public. And now, they just ratcheted things up once more.
This didn't get much attention yesterday -- close to none of television -- amid all the other grander news, but it's critically important nonetheless.
One of the concerns of many is that Trump would pardon his associates of crimes they either are convicted of or might be charged with, thereby obstructing justice by giving them in essence a "Get out of jail free card." Because a presidential pardon only covers federal crimes, though, some saw a safety net in state prosecutions, most particularly in New York where Trump has long been based, along with his associates, and where many of the alleged crimes may have been committed -- notably those in Trump Tower. Alas, there is a state law in New York that didn't allow for such a thing, called the "double jeopardy loophole." Basically, if someone is convicted of a federal crime and pardoned by the president, the person can't be charged in New York with the same state crimes.
The New York Assembly, by a vote of 90-52 closed that loophole yesterday. The state senate had previously passed the measure earlier in the week. And Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign the bill.
When State Senator Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, introduced his bill, he said -- "Every day it seems there is more and more evidence that the President and his underlings intend to corruptly use the pardon power to undermine the rule of law. We must move quickly to close the double jeopardy loophole so those who broke New York laws may be held accountable. If we do not close this loophole, and close it soon, New Yorkers may never realize the justice they deserve.”
When signed by Gov. Cuomo signs the bill, state prosecutors -- including the Attorney General -- will then be allowed to charge anyone pardoned by a president for state crimes committed in the State of New York against its citizens.
And a presidential pardon can't get them out of jail if convicted.
A Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said --.“Since there’s inaction in Washington to stop any of this power of the pardon being abused, or in any other way stopping the president from doing whatever he wants, it’s kind of ironic that the state has to step in and enforce the state’s rights to change the law so that we can check the power of the president,”
And we'll add another wrinkle in the mix. Remember way back when (as I wrote in this article here last August) when it was reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was coordinating with that Attorney General of New York? Well, I think it's a safe bet that the state has held onto all the documents.
Clearly this new bill can work both ways. If a Democratic president ever pardons someone of federal crimes that were committed in New York State and broke state laws, they too can now be charged in New York -- as well they should. And the New York governor will have the opportunity to pardon the person there.
But for now, Trump associates who may have committed crimes in the state of New York (and by the term "Trump associates" this should be read to include Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Among other associates.)
Start spreading the news. Apparently, it really is up to you -- New York, New York.
Don Don da-dee-dah, Don Don da-dee-dah...
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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