Legal Victories Challenging the Corruption of the White House

Victory: Closing the New York State Double Jeopardy Loophole

The New York Assembly voted to pass a double jeopardy bill challenging the abuse of the presidential pardon power. The New York Senate previously passed the bill. The bill was signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on October 16, 2019. We worked closely with the New York Attorney General’s Office to help achieve this victory. Prior to the passage of the bill, New York State law allowed for certain defendants pardoned by the president for their federal crimes to escape prosecution for their state crimes. The bill has now closed this loophole by providing a narrowly-targeted exception to ensure that state prosecutors could bring cases against certain defendants pardoned by the president for self-dealing purposes.

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VICTORY: Divest Trump Soho Campaign

In July 2017, Free Speech For People launched a campaign calling on the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the New York State Comptroller to divest public pension funds from the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York City, as the investment was funneling millions in retiree funds to the Trump Organization in violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. After months of pressure, the private equity fund that owns Trump SoHo announced it will buy out the Trump Organization’s contract to market and manage the troubled luxury condo/hotel, breaking a chain of illegal payments from state and local pension funds to the President and securing a victory for the people in the fight against the corruption of our democracy.

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Current Legal Actions to Challenge Corruption

Foreign interference in our elections

In December 2016, we (along with the Campaign for Accountability) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the Russian government and the Trump campaign. The complaint alleges that the Russian government had violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by spending money to influence the 2016 presidential election, and further provided evidence indicating the need to investigate whether the Trump campaign had coordinated with the Russian government. Some of the questions at issue in our complaint were addressed by the Mueller report, but many others are still unanswered.


Pursuing FEC Investigations of Campaign Finance Violations

Free Speech For People filed an administrative complaint with the Federal Election Commission concerning a $150,000 “hush money” payment made in 2016 on behalf of Trump to cover up an alleged affair with Karen McDougal, as a potential violation of federal campaign finance law. The investigation is necessary because, even after federal prosecutors have investigated some of the parties involved, critical questions remain unsettled—including the exact nature of President Trump’s role. Although a court rebuffed an effort to compel the FEC to act, the case remains live on the FEC’s administrative docket.


Abuse of the Pardon Power

Free Speech For People filed an urgent motion before the federal district court in U.S. v. Stone on behalf of constitutional law Professors Jed Shugerman and Ethan Leib seeking permission to submit an amicus brief arguing that the court should not automatically accept the executive grant of clemency but rather should consider whether it may be unconstitutional.


Past Legal Actions to Challenge Corruption

Challenging the unconstitutional pardon of sheriff arpaio

Free Speech For People was part of a coalition of organizations asking the courts to reject the presidential pardon of former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joseph Arpaio as unconstitutional and invalid on the ground that it violates the constitutional guarantee of due process of law. Meanwhile, Arpaio is seeking to have his conviction vacated entirely. The Department of Justice has refused to defend the government against Arpaio’s appeal, so at our request, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit appointed a special prosecutor to represent the interests of the United States. Ultimately, the panel affirmed the district court without addressing our arguments challenging the validity of the pardon itself.

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