Both sides should calm down. Yes, the cooperation between the feds and New York is an important side of the story. What’s absent is a real indication that much new or unusual is afoot.
Federal and state prosecutors are supposed to cooperate when investigations overlap. That’s what they do. From the little that has been pinned down so far, it’s hard to see that they’re cooperating in any way they wouldn’t be if persons other than Mueller and Schneiderman were in charge.
It’d be one thing had Mueller gone shopping for help to some state with little connection to the Russian affair. But as the locus of the Trump organization and campaign, New York is at the center of the probe, even if other states have connections, too.
We know that the Trump Tower meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr. is a focus of the probe because Rinat Akhmetshin, one of its participants, spent hours recently testifying before Mueller’s grand jury.
As lawyer and commentator Renato Mariotti pointed out on Twitter, federal prosecutors “routinely” provide their state counterparts with evidence of possible crimes committed under state law.
It could hardly be otherwise under our two‐level system of prosecution, under which patterns of misbehavior can readily generate both federal and state offenses. Conversely, state law enforcers looking into violations of state law may come upon evidence that federal law has been broken, and they, too, routinely share such information with their federal counterparts.
The US attorneys’ handbook, which Mueller would be expected to follow, provides expressly for sharing federal grand‐jury evidence with state and local law enforcement when it points to such crimes. Were Mueller to step down or be fired tomorrow, his successor would be called on to “team up” with state counterparts in this same way.
Let’s review the bidding. In the aftermath of Trump’s pardon of Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio following a federal contempt conviction — which sent ripples of dismay deep into Republican legal circles — a lot of us are looking for reassurance that the chief executive can’t pardon every offense his backers might commit.
And that reassurance is right there in the Constitution, which makes plain that the president has no power to pardon crimes under state law. Nor can he fire state law‐enforcement officials like Schneiderman.
It’s believed that part of the Paul Manafort probe (in which Manafort denies all wrongdoing) involves possible violations of money‐laundering laws, and other financial charges may surface. Under New York’s unique Martin Act, its attorney general wields unique financial investigatory powers.
As I wrote for these pages in 2011, the Martin Act is a virtual “blank check for the prosecution” that gives New York’s AG “super‐broad powers to investigate and press charges against alleged financial fraud.” In particular, he can “subpoena witnesses or demand the production of documents without probable cause or a grand jury’s say‐so.” He can also leak things he finds, or keep them private, as suits his whim.
These powers go too far and should be rolled back, but the Schneiderman‐Mueller cooperation appears to fall squarely within them.
Everyone seems to be getting excited over a system working normally.