Robert Mueller Has Found Way To Circumvent Trump’s Power To Pardon Himself And Potential Witnesses

Donald Trump’s recent pardon of Joe Arpaio was seen as both an assault on the rule of law and a suggestion of how he might try to derail Robert Mueller’s investigation. Seeing that Trump figured out how to issue a pardon last week probably resulted in a great sense of relief to members of Trump’s family and friends.

Trump has already spoken about his power to pardon himself, friends, and family, not only escaping prosecution but also removing motivation from those around him to make deals and cooperate with Mueller. As Jonathan Chait put it,  “Mueller is apparently handling his investigating like the prosecution of a mob boss, pressuring underlings to flip on the boss. Trump’s advantage is that, unlike a mob boss, he can give out an unlimited number of get-out-of-jail-free cards.”

As the president’s power to issue pardons only applies to federal prosecutions, Mueller has found a way to potentially negate Trump’s power to pardon. by opening the possibility of prosecution at the state level. Typically federal prosecutions take precedence, but that is based upon tradition, not law. Politico reports:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his financial transactions, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.

The two teams have shared evidence and talked frequently in recent weeks about a potential case, these people said. 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.

No decision has been made on where or whether to file charges. “Nothing is imminent,” said one of the people familiar with the case…

While Trump has not signaled any public intention to pardon Manafort or anyone else involved in the Russia investigations, the president has privately discussed his pardon powers with his advisers.

Schneiderman has experience in going after the Trump organization, winning a $25 million settlement last November regarding allegedly fraudulent practices at Trump University.

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