N.Y. lawmaker warns Trump about pre-emptive pardons that won’t prevent state charges

Denis Slattery for NY Daily News

December 18, 2020

Originally published in NY Daily News on December 18, 2020.

ALBANY — A New York lawmaker is offering a little advice to President Trump and gently reminding him that his former home state recently weakened his pardon power.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau) sent a letter to the commander-in-chief on Friday detailing a law passed last year that closed a legal loophole and allows the state to pursue charges against people who have received presidential pardons, which only apply to federal crimes.

Speculation has swirled in recent days that Trump is preparing to issue a host of pardons and may be considering pre-emptive pardons for sons Eric and Don Jr. and allies such as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

That would do little to avert legal trouble in the Empire State, Kaminsky warned.

“I write to remind you that your pardon power only extends to federal offenses, and your friends and family could still face state prosecution if they committed crimes in New York,” Kaminsky, a former state and federal prosecutor, writes.

The Long Island Democrat was the main sponsor of a law enacted last year that ended a provision in state law prohibiting New York prosecutors from charging people with state crimes similar to the federal crimes for which they were pardoned.

Kaminsky specifically notes in his missive to the president that Trump’s son Eric is currently the subject of an investigation by N.Y. Attorney General Letitia James.

“If it is found that he has committed crimes in New York, then he can likely be punished for those crimes in state court even if you pardon him for similar federal wrongdoings,” he writes.

Trump has made a habit of pardoning and commuting sentences of friends and political supporters.

In July, Trump commuted the 40-month sentence of longtime ally and Republican operative Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The charges were brought as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Last month, the president pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia during the 2016 transition.