NEW YORK, April 18 (Reuters) - New York's attorney general on Wednesday asked Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to give him and other local prosecutors power to bring criminal charges against people pardoned by U.S. President Donald Trump.
In a letter, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman urged Cuomo and legislative leaders to close a loophole in New York's double jeopardy law shielding recipients of presidential pardons from state prosecution.
A change could make it more difficult for Trump aides and others who might be pardoned to escape criminal prosecution, even if special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election were curbed or shut down.
The president has no constitutional power to pardon state crimes, but Schneiderman said the current law means defendants pardoned for serious federal crimes could be freed from "all accountability" under state criminal law.
Schneiderman, a Democrat in his eighth year as attorney general, has made his office a central figure in blue state challenges to Trump, tangling with the Republican president on such matters as consumer finance, the environment, immigration and the 2020 census.
Previous New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
Previous New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a press conference announcing new guidelines and testing standards that GNC will adhere to for their herbal supplements and extracts on March 30, 2015 in New York City. After testing hermal supplements and extracts from various retailers last year and finding false ingredients in their products, the attorney general's office subpoenaed GNC and other providers to further investigate their products. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
New York State governor Andrew Cuomo (L) and New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman attend a rally to celebrate the passage of the minimum wage for fast-food workers by the New York State Fast Food Wage Board in New York July 22, 2015. New York state moved on Wednesday to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour in New York City by the end of 2018 and in the rest of the state by mid-2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
FILE PHOTO: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a news conference to announce a state-based effort to combat climate change in New York, New York, U.S. March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (L) and Actress Mariska Hargitay attend the John Jay College 50th Anniversary Gala at John Jay College on May 19, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage)
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks during a press conference about a settlement announced against the Bank Of America in the Manhattan borough of New York August 21, 2014. The Attorney General announced a record breaking $16.65 billion settlement with the Bank of America. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW BUSINESS POLITICS HEADSHOT)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden attend the 2011 Game Changers Awards at Skylight SOHO on October 18, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 3: (L to R) New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks as Acting Brooklyn Attorney General Eric Gonzalez looks on during a press conference to call for an end of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in New York state courts, August 3, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. During remarks, Attorney General Schneiderman stated that 'targeting immigrants at our courthouses undermines our criminal justice system and threatens public safety.' (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Savannah Guthrie and Eric Schneiderman appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06: John Lewis and Eric Schneiderman attend the Gordon Parks Foundation Awards Dinner & Auction at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Eric Schneiderman attends the 2013 Ripple of Hope awards dinner at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. ?? LAN (Photo by Lars Niki/Corbis via Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 553 -- Pictured: (l-r) Attorney General Eric Schneiderman talks with host Seth Meyers during an interview on July 18, 2017 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06: Ronald O. Perelman and Eric Schneiderman attend the Gordon Parks Foundation Awards Dinner & Auction at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Eric Schneiderman, attorney general of New York, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. Schneiderman explained the concept of 'sanctuary cities' in the United States and discussed President Donald Trump's threat to cut funding for those cities to punish their stances on immigration. Photographer: Kholood Eid/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06: Christine Taylor and Eric Schneiderman attend the Gordon Parks Foundation Awards Dinner & Auction at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks during a press conference at the office of the New York Attorney General, September 13, 2016 in New York City. Schneiderman announced the results of an 'Operation Child Tracker', ongoing investigation into illegal online tracking of children at dozens of the nation's 'most recognizable childrens' websites. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06: Sherry Bronfman and Eric Schneiderman attend the Gordon Parks Foundation Awards Dinner & Auction at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 09: Dwayne Ashley, NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and Jazz at Lincoln Center Chairman Bob Appel attend the Jazz at Lincoln Center 2016 Gala 'Jazz and Broadway' honoring Diana and Joe Dimenna and Ahmad Jamal at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Jazz At Lincoln Center)
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The White House had no immediate comment.
Cuomo, a Democrat, is reviewing Schneiderman's proposal, and "believes that the federal legal system should not provide a basis for any wrong doers to escape justice," press secretary Dani Lever said in a statement.
Democratic State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said "we will take a close look" at the "serious" issue, and State Senator Todd Kaminsky, also a Democrat, tweeted a plan to introduce a bill closing the loophole.
It is unclear if a revised law can make it through the state senate, which is closely divided between Republicans and Democrats. The office of Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Double jeopardy laws prevent people from being tried twice for the same crime.
"By closing New York's double jeopardy loophole, lawmakers can ensure that no one accused of breaking New York's laws will escape accountability merely because of a strategically-timed presidential pardon," Schneiderman said in a statement.
Jed Shugerman, a Fordham University law professor, said Schneiderman's "balanced" proposal both protects people from "repeated harassment" by a single group of prosecutors, and also "protects against pardons being used to obstruct justice."
He said its adoption would bring New York law in line with laws of several other U.S. states.
Schneiderman said more than 20 states provide defendants only the minimum required protection against double jeopardy.
Some onetime Trump aides have pleaded guilty in Mueller's probe, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign adviser Rick Gates.
Trump has called the probe a witch hunt. His personal lawyer Michael Cohen faces a separate criminal investigation that arose from it.
Last week, Trump pardoned Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a onetime chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney, over his role in the unmasking of CIA agent Valerie Plame. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Jan Wolfe in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Tom Brown)