New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a new law on Wednesday that gives the state the authority to prosecute those accused of crimes even if they have a presidential pardon.
The bill effectively closes a double jeopardy loophole that usually prevents individuals charged on the federal level from being prosecuted by a state for the same offense. The measure was written to specifically target former Trump administration officials who may receive a pardon, an idea the president has regularly suggested for aides who have run afoul of the law.
“No one is above the law and New York will not turn a blind eye to criminality, no matter who seeks to protect them,” Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. “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.
The law goes into effect immediately and applies to all past and future offenses. New York officials will be able to prosecute any pardoned individual who served in the executive branch, worked for a president’s election or transition team or for a for-profit or nonprofit group controlled by a president.
President are able to pardon only federal crimes, not those committed at the state level.
The state first proposed the changes last year after state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who later resigned, said he was troubled by Trump’s frequent discussion about his ability to issue pardons to his top aides. At the time, the president had reportedly been mulling pardons for former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Manafort was convicted of federal bank fraud and tax evasion charges and is currently serving a 7½-year sentence.
Current Attorney General Tish James formally introduced the bill earlier this year. She said Wednesday that the changes would “ensure that individuals who commit crimes under New York state law are held accountable.”
“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,” James said in a statement. “No one is above the law.”
Several of Trump’s current and former aides have drawn the eyes of federal investigators, including the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. NBC also noted that both Trump’s business and his campaign are based in New York and would fall under the purview of the new law.
The Associated Press reported that 24 states currently have laws to clarify that presidential pardons do not apply to state charges.