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NY Lawmakers Pass Bill to Allow Those Pardoned by the President to Be Prosecuted
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22 May 2019 11:41 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)



Perhaps the rest of the country needs to start thanking New York. They seem to be doing more to hold Donald Trump accountable than the U.S. Congress. They're getting financial documents and tax returns released, were behind exposing the Trump family's fraud with their charity, and now they're making sure moving forward that state authorities will be able to prosecute anyone who is pardoned by Trump. 

State Democrats in the New York Assembly set up this bill to remove the "double jeopardy" loophole of defendants being prosecuted twice for similar crimes that could have led to them not being able to be prosecuted in New York after being pardoned by the president.


State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, the bill's sponsor, as well as a former federal prosecutor, said, "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." 

"Double jeopardy" laws prevent someone from being charged with and convicted of the same crime twice. However, it only comes into play after a jury is convened or when a defendant officially enters a plea.


Yet, with the bill that the New York lawmakers passed 90-52, if someone received a presidential pardon for a federal crime, New York authorities will still be allowed to bring a case against them that is related to the same crime. 

"Every day we wait gives the opportunity for the president to undermine the rule of law without New York having the recourse to take action," insisted Kaminsky.


Republican assembly Andy Goodell disagrees, comparing the bill to "a poke in the eye" to Trump. 

While on the Assembly floor, he asked, if the prosecuting loophole is closed, what would prevent federal prosecutors from charging defendants who received state-level pardons from Cuomo.


"Isn't this opening Pandora's Box?" he questioned. "This is a two-way street." 

However, what may appeal to Trump and his allies is that the proposed New York law is not retroactive. It would not apply to anyone who has already been tried or entered a plea, meaning it clears the president to pardon his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort or his former attorney, Michael Cohen, who are both already serving time in federal prison.


Additionally, pardons have been on the table with them and others involved in the special counsel's Russia and obstruction investigations, yet Trump has never acted on it. Though pardons have been floated for Manafort and Cohen specifically. Cohen and Trump do not have the warm relationship they used to, so it's doubtful Trump would ever relieve him of his prison duties. 

Pardons aren't foreign to him, though, as he has pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, and former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.


Trump has the power as president to issue pardons for federal offenses, yet those pardons wouldn't apply to state crimes. Democrats say this bill adds as a level of defense against him or any other president possibly abusing executive power. 

"We never thought we would have to worry about a state being involved in the review of presidential power," remarked Democratic Assembly member Joseph Lentol.


"It doesn't have anything to do with this president. It has to do with presidential power, period." 

Earlier a version of the bill was passed by the New York Senate, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo promising to sign it once it reaches his desk.

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