While pundits on the left and the right have long agreed that any attempt on the part of President Trump to pardon himself would be just about the all-time most obscene abuse of presidential privilege, nobody seems confident that the president himself would not try it.
At the moment, top Republicans are reeling from Trump’s pardoning of the seemingly unpardonable Joe Arpaio. The once stalwart Trump supporter Chris Christie is the latest to chime in, telling MSNBC, “One of the prerequisites you look for in giving a pardon is contrition for what you were convicted of. I didn’t see that in Sheriff Arpaio. This is not one that I would’ve done.”
Fortunately, the president has absolutely no power to pardon anyone convicted of a state crime. Hence Robert Mueller teamed up with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. It’s been reported that Schneiderman and Mueller’s team have been sharing information. As Trump’s business operations have always been anchored in New York, it’s very likely that any illegal activities such as fraud or money-laundering would have been committed there. If that is the case and the president as well as any family members, friends, and colleagues should be convicted on the state level, the president has no power whatsoever. Doubtless, Mueller’s reach which includes all branches of the intelligence community and even the IRS would be able to assist Schneiderman in building such a case. In Robert Mueller’s role as special counsel, his team of Grade A legal experts (about half of whom specialize in white collar crime) might be able to offer some tips on prosecution.
New York Magazine just explained it all with one powerful paragraph:
“You would have to find that one of those [election] crimes occurred in New York,” Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor, told NBC. Of course, some of the alleged crimes almost certainly did take place in New York. And sure enough, Josh Dawsey reports, Mueller is teaming up with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering,” he notes.
Trump can pardon anybody facing charges from Mueller, but not from Schneiderman. It is probably significant that Mueller is letting this fact be known to Trump’s inner circle. Trump’s biggest source of leverage over Mueller just disappeared.
So many want to see this president taken down by collusion with hostile foreign government or a treason of equal or lesser value — but Mueller is a pragmatist. A trend has formed over the past 6 weeks or so in which we’re seeing bipartisan efforts of protectionism where Mueller and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions are concerned. It is only fitting that Mueller should protect himself and the integrity of his investigation.