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The Schneiderman Firewall

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As Paul argued yesterday, it is highly likely that Trump will fire Mueller and/or use mass pardons to escape federal accountability. The best chance to get something on Trump and his associates will presumably be at the state level:

This doesn’t guarantee, of course, that Flynn or any other Trump associate will end up in jail or that Mueller’s investigation will fully play out. Trump has two formidable weapons he can still use. The first is a plenary power to pardon people for federal offenses, including preemptively. If the investigation gets too close, Trump could simply pardon Flynn, Kushner, his sons and anyone else Mueller’s investigation might implicate.

And, should Mueller’s investigation continue to accumulate damning information, Trump could also have it shut down. If Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who is ultimately in charge of the Mueller investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself over his own meetings with Russian officials — refused to shut down Mueller’s investigation, Trump could fire him and find someone in the Justice Department who would.

Because of the care Mueller is evidently taking with his investigation, however, Trump might not be able to escape trouble so easily. Trump’s pardon power doesn’t extend to state crimes, and Mueller’s investigation may well uncover illegal activity (including money laundering) that is illegal under New York as well as federal law. Were Trump to shut down Mueller’s federal investigation, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman would likely be particularly inclined to be aggressive in investigating violations of state law by Trump and his associates — and Mueller is certainly aware of this.

Still, if Trump issues blanket pardons or terminates Mueller’s investigation, the short-term remedies at the federal level might be limited. It is clear that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will not seriously investigate Trump, let alone impeach and convict him, as long as he will advance their agenda.

This is where Trump’s rather odd reluctance to fire people as president is proving useful — every day the Mueller investigation continues makes it more likely it will find stuff that is useful to state AGs when Trump shuts it down.

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