With the federal indictments of former Trump campaign officials, the President’s pardon power – which he has tweeted about and used, to exonerate Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio – is again in the news. While questions exist as to the scope of the President’s power, like whether he can pardon himself, one limit is settled – the President’s pardon power only extends to federal crimes.
A consequence of our federal system, which spreads power among multiple levels of government, is that state prosecutors may investigate potential violations of state laws at the same time as the federal special counsel investigates violations of federal laws. So, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is reportedly investigating whether the Trump campaign officials indicted for federal financial crime violations also violated state financial crime laws.
And if these or other individuals subject to the state investigations seek mercy, the President of the United States does not have the power to help them. They must appeal to the state’s governor or otherwise seek clemency under state law.
For more on how potential Presidential pardons would affect ongoing investigations, check out Andy Wright’s Possible Presidential Pardon Scenarios on Just Security.