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There are several federal investigations into Russian meddling in last year's election, but states are playing a role, too. New York, for one, could become a powerful adversary of the Trump administration if the president tries to pardon anyone involved. NPR's Jim Zarroli explains why.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: When President Trump announced a ban on travel for visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries right after his inauguration, a group of attorneys general from mostly blue states quickly got involved. Eric Schneiderman is the attorney general of New York.
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: We just started talking to each other Friday afternoon. By Sunday morning, we had 17 states signed on to say this is unconstitutional; we're going into court to stop it. And we went in to courts all over the country and eventually got it struck down.
ZARROLI: This wasn't unusual. States have traditionally acted as counterweights to presidential authority, challenging the way laws are enforced. During the Obama administration, states such as Texas played a big role in overturning parts of the Affordable Care Act, for example. Schneiderman says Trump's election has galvanized many attorneys general, and they have worked together to oppose White House initiatives on climate change, immigration and voting rights.
SCHNEIDERMAN: There are regular conference calls, staffers talking to each other all the time. We're dividing up work. And there's much more of an attitude that we're all - you know, look; we're all in this together.
ZARROLI: This has been a joint effort. Though as Trump's home state, New York has perhaps a special role to play. Schneiderman, for example, brought charges against Trump over a real estate course accused of defrauding customers.
SCHNEIDERMAN: I do have more experience with the president than others because I was in litigation with him for years over Trump University. So I didn't think this particular skill set would be so important, but it turned out as of January it was.
ZARROLI: And Trump, for the record, is no fan of Schneiderman's, as this 2015 interview with ABC News suggests.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Anybody that knows - and that's in this city - knows anything about Eric Schneiderman - we know he's a political hack. I know it very well.
ZARROLI: Trump settled the Trump University case for $25 million. Today New York officials continue to investigate Trump on other matters and are playing a role in the Russia investigation. The state is looking into money laundering allegations against Trump campaign officials. And if federal officials decide not to pursue the case, it's conceivable that the states could file charges of their own. Jennifer Rodgers heads the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School.
JENNIFER RODGERS: If you're talking about New York state, I think the likelihood is pretty good that if a federal crime was committed here, that a state crime will also have been committed because the campaign was based here. So probably lots of their meetings and phone calls and other actions like that will have occurred here.
ZARROLI: And while the president can pardon someone charged with federal crimes, he doesn't have the same power over state charges. New York also has the power to regulate, penalize and even dissolve corporations headquartered in the state, such as the Trump Organization. Robert Abrams is a former New York attorney general.
ROBERT ABRAMS: The attorney general in New York is a very key player with very strong powers, particularly as it relates to corporate action and corporate entities.
ZARROLI: New York officials tend to brush aside questions about pardons and state charges as premature, but states such as New York, Washington and California have already demonstrated they're not afraid to challenge the White House when they want to. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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