In a moment of defiance, New York state governor Andrew Cuomo passed a measure allowing authorities in New York state to press charges against those who've received presidential pardons.
Wednesday's measure was signed by Cuomo in order to prevent ex-aides from the Trump administration from getting out of criminal punishment through presidential pardons. NBC News Network reported that the New York democrat's signing of the measure came in direct response to President Trump's consideration of pardoning his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
Mr. Manafort has been charged with tax evasion, bank fraud, and money laundering. He is currently being held in federal prison. The Manhattan District Attorney also has some charges for Manafort, namely, state mortgage fraud.
Despite the notable timing of Cuomo's signature, the measure was passed by the New York State Senate and State Assembly in May. It ends the double jeopardy loophole that prevents states from prosecuting people for crimes the federal government has already tried them for. Under the new legislation, New York prosecutors can charge defendants accused of federal crimes—even those who have received presidential pardons—if the offenses in question occurred in New York. As presidents are only able to pardon those accused of federal crimes, not state crimes, there is little Trump would be able to do in response to this.
New York state is currently investigating several of the president's former aides, campaign managers, and business and nonprofit associates.
The bill was spearheaded by Attorney General Letitia James. In a Tuesday statement, James said:
“We have a responsibility to ensure that individuals who commit crimes under New York state law are held accountable for those crimes. This critical new law closes a gaping loophole that could have allowed any president to abuse the presidential pardon power by unfairly granting a pardon to a family member or close associate and possibly allow that individual to evade justice altogether. No one is above the law, and this commonsense measure will provide a reasonable and necessary check on presidential power today and for all presidents to come.”
James has been investigating Trump Organization and the president's finances since earlier this year, following Michael Cohen told Congress Trump inflated the worth of his assets and properties in order to secure bank loans.
Mr. Trump has been eager to dismiss James's concerns as some sort of vendetta against him. Yet Cuomo seems to share James's feelings.
He said in a statement upon the bill's signing: “No one is above the law and New York will not turn a blind eye to criminality, no matter who seeks to protect them. The closure of this egregious loophole gives prosecutors the ability to stand up against any abuse of power, and helps ensure that no politically motivated, self-serving action is sanctioned under law.”
Double jeopardy's intent is to prevent a person from being charged with the same crime twice. It does not prevent someone from being charged for something they've been cleared for in another state or federally, nor is it intended to allow for evasion of justice.
The White House did not respond to NBC news network's requests for comment.