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NY moves to end 'double jeopardy loophole' for presidential pardons

Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) led the effort

Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) led the effort in the State Senate to pass a bill that would end a "double-jeopardy loophole" in state law that has prohibited New York prosecutors from charging people with state crimes similar to federal crimes for which they were pardoned. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

ALBANY — The Assembly gave final legislative approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow prosecutors to bring state charges against a U.S. president and his associates who are accused of federal crimes and receive presidential pardons.

The bill is aimed at President Donald Trump, who has talked about pardoning loyal supporters as well as himself amid several investigations into his 2016 campaign, his actions in office, and his development company based in Manhattan.

The bill passed the Assembly 90-52. The State Senate passed it May 8. Both votes were along party lines.

“Our objective is abuse of power … to root out corruption and abuse of presidential power,” said Assemb. Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn), the bill’s sponsor in Tuesday's floor debate.

The bill would end a “double-jeopardy loophole” in state law that has prohibited New York prosecutors from charging people with state crimes similar to the federal crimes for which they were pardoned.  It isn't retroactive to Trump allies already convicted of crimes.

“The threatened use of the pardon power in a corrupt way by this president certainly raised an important issue of why New York has a loophole tying its hands,” said Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who led the effort in the Senate.

The bill seeks to separate a presidential pardon on federal crimes from state crimes.

“While the president has broad power to issue reprieves, pardons and other forms of clemency for federal offenses pursuant … the power does not extend to granting clemency for state offenses,” the bill states.

Republicans warned that the bill is a slippery slope that could erode many peoples' right against prosecution twice for the same crime.

“It’s very easy to look at this in a very narrow sense,” said Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square). “But we all know laws have much broader implications than that, and we are really setting, to me, a very dangerous precedent.”

“It is using New York state taxpayers’ money for political causes, and not doing one thing to take people out of poverty, not one thing to create a job, not one thing to reduce taxes in our state,” said Assembly Republican leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua). “I think it’s deplorable.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo supports the principle of the measure but will want to review details of the bill before committing to signing it into law, said Cuomo spokesman Jason Conwall.

It is the latest of several efforts by New York Democrats to investigate Trump and his associates. The Assembly and the Senate are expected to pass a bill Wednesday that will allow Congress access to Trump’s state tax returns. Trump has refused to release his federal tax returns, which Democrats said are important to determine whether Trump has conflicts of interest between his presidency and his private development company, the Trump Organization.

Attorney General Letitia James also is using state laws to investigate Trump’s company.

With Yancey Roy

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