April 20, 2018 / 6:21 PM / a month ago

Lawmakers propose giving top NY prosecutor power to bypass Trump pardons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York state lawmakers on Friday introduced legislation to give the state’s attorney general and other local prosecutors the power to bring criminal charges against people pardoned by U.S. President Donald Trump.

FILE PHOTO: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks during a news conference to discuss the civil rights lawsuit filed against The Weinstein Companies and Harvey Weinstein in New York, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The bill is intended to close what New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called a loophole in state law that could permit Trump to pardon people for state crimes, which he has no authority to do, as well as federal crimes.

Passage could make it harder for Trump aides who might be pardoned to escape prosecution, even if special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election were shut down.

The law would do away with double jeopardy protections, which prevent people from being tried twice for the same crime, in cases of presidential pardon.

The new legislation was introduced by Senator Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who chairs the Assembly Codes Committee.

Both are Democrats, as is Schneiderman, a prominent critic of Trump, who is a Republican.

New York’s double jeopardy law is “a recipe for trouble,” and changing it would “substantially reduce the threat of lawless White House action,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

The state’s assembly has a large Democratic majority. Republicans hold 31 of the 63 Senate seats, but effectively have a majority because one Democrat caucuses with them.

A spokeswoman for Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo said this week that Cuomo believes “the federal legal system should not provide a basis for any wrongdoers to escape justice.”

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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