Why Eric Schneiderman is crucial to Trump-Russia probe

New York’s top lawman could become President Trump’s biggest threat.

With Robert Mueller recruiting New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his federal investigation into the Trump campaign, he’s now working with a long-time Trump rival who has an exceptional position to prosecute the President.

Schneiderman is also one of the prominent prosecutors in the country who can claim a prior legal victory over Trump.

He has jurisdiction over Trump’s home state — the place where Trump not only lived, but also managed his company and his campaign in Trump Tower.

That puts him, in a way, above Trump’s presidential powers.

As Mueller has ramped up his investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible Russia ties, Trump has reportedly been studying up on his pardoning powers, which give him broad authority to essentially excuse anyone — even himself.

When Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff from Arizona who oversaw discriminatory and violent policing, some saw it as Trump’s way of signaling to campaign cohorts that he would pardon them, too, for charges from Mueller’s probe.

But a President only has the authority to pardon a federal charge — not a state charge. A state attorney like Schneiderman could prosecute Trump no matter what kind of pardons the President issues.

For example, if Mueller uncovers a crime connected to the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 — in which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer — Schneiderman could take up the prosecution, even if Trump tries to dismiss it.

Mueller is also digging into Trump’s potential business deals with Russian oligarchs, many of which were allegedly based in New York. Those, too, could be Schneiderman’s turf.


Donald Trump promoting Trump University in 2005.

(Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Schneiderman has already been positioning his office to tackle Trump.

He has hired prosecutors who worked with Preet Bharara, the Manhattan district attorney who Trump fired, and tasked them with looking into Trump’s business. The office has also taken a stand against some of Trump’s most controversial orders, such as his travel ban, which was eventually neutered through legal challenges. 

Schneiderman also has a history of going after Trump — and winning.

Starting in 2011, Schneiderman spearheaded an inquiry in Trump University, the pricey real estate training program that many former students called a giant fraud.

Schneiderman’s probe exploded into a $40 million civil suit in 2013, accusing the phony school of illegal business practices. This became one of three Trump University lawsuits that followed Trump through his presidential campaign.

As the legal battle dragged on, Schneiderman endured the typical Trump treatment. Trump called Schneiderman a “lightweight,” a “crook” and “worse than Spitzer or Weiner.” He wrote a lot of tweets claiming Schneiderman wears eyeliner. And he filed a $100 million alleging that Schneiderman started a “malicious prosecution” to “further his political aspirations.”

But in the end, Schneiderman toppled Trump. Just days after Trump won the election, he agreed to a $25 million settlement for the Trump University cases — even though he swore he’d never settle.

Schneiderman called it “a major victory.” But the settlement also prevented Trump from facing legal challenges while he’s in the Oval Office.

Now, Schneiderman might get a second chance.

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