Earlier this year, as the Russia investigation dragged on, the president had an idea. As he trumpeted to the world via Twitter, he is, apparently, ready and willing to use his presidential pardon power on himself and any other member of his team who could, at any point, suddenly find themselves facing charges related to the investigation.
Well, that plan might not turn out to be viable after all, no matter how good it originally sounded in the president’s head.
On MSNBC this week, national security analyst Ari Melber discussed the fact that should the president pardon all suspects in the Russia investigation, including himself, that could open the door to prosecution in as many as 39 individual states.
The mechanism that would allow for such to take place is simple — 39 states were the venue for various suspected election-related crimes carried out by Russia. Thus, if Americans were found to be complicit in Russian efforts to influence the election, they could face conspiracy charges in as many as 39 states.
Normally, as MSNBC explains, state prosecutors defer to federal prosecutors in cases like the Russia scandal. However, for Trump to erase the possibility of federal charges would suddenly cause state prosecutors to find themselves at bat, so to speak.
The three states where cases against members of the Trump team are most likely to proceed in the case of the premature closing of the federal Russia investigation are Virginia, New York, and Illinois.
In the case of Virginia, that’s where a bulk of the computer systems supporting the Democratic National Committee are located. In the case of New York, that is where, of course, the bulk of the Trump team has long been based. Finally, in the case of Illinois, that state is one the few jurisdictions that have been confirmed as the victim of Russian intrusions into their election systems.
Still, even though many states have apparent jurisdiction over crimes related to the 2016 Russian attack on American electoral systems, that doesn’t mean that cases will, in fact, actually be able to proceed.
As former Maine Attorney General and current Harvard law professor Jim Tierney explained of the possibility for state cases against the president and/or his team:
‘It could happen. If the [district attorney] of Baltimore wants to go after the president, is that destabilizing? Yes it is. The actual legal and practical obstacles to bringing this kind of case are very high.’
Still, even if the obstacles are high, they aren’t insurmountable — at least in theory.
Watch MSNBC’s Ari Melber explain some of this in the clip below. As he explains, there are reports that New York’s Attorney General is already preparing for such a situation to present itself.
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