The Manhattan district attorney’s office is not going to let House Republicans push it around, it made clear in a letter responding to Reps. Jim Jordan, James Comer, and Bryan Steil. Without District Attorney Alvin Bragg even having indicted Donald Trump, the three Republican committee chairs had demanded that he “testify about what plainly appears to be a politically motivated prosecutorial decision” and turn over documents relating to his investigation, along with information about how his office uses federal funds—this last having obviously been tacked on to provide a flimsy justification for why a county district attorney’s criminal investigation would come under congressional oversight.
Bragg’s office has now responded with a request to meet with committee staff to find out “what information the DA’s Office can provide that relates to a legitimate legislative interest and can be shared consistent with the District Attorney’s constitutional obligations.” As the rest of the letter makes clear, the DA’s office seriously doubts that there is any such legitimate legislative interest/interest consistent with the DA’s constitutional obligations.
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Here are the boldfaced subheadings in the letter from general counsel Leslie Dubeck. They should be enough for you to get the general drift:
”Compliance with the Letter Would Interfere with Law Enforcement”
”Requests Regarding the Exercise of State Police Powers Violate New York’s Sovereignty”
”Congressional Review of a Pending Criminal Investigation Usurps Executive Powers”
”Federal Funding is an Insufficient Basis to Justify These Unconstitutional Requests”
In short: pound sand, pound sand, pound sand, and also, pound some more sand.
That last bold point is where Bragg’s office does offer Jordan, et al., part of what they’re asking for, but it has the effect of an eye-rolling dismissal: Following the point that the Republicans didn’t in any way justify how the office’s use of federal funds would connect to their other demands, it concludes, “Nonetheless, to assist Congress in understanding the ways in which the DA’s Office has used federal funds, we are preparing and will submit a letter describing its use of federal funds.”
In translation: Okay, you’ll get the thing you may have some legitimate right to, but we all know that’s not what you really want.
The bulk of the letter is a long, heavily cited explanation of why the Republicans’ demand is an outrageous abuse of power. Their letter “seeks non-public information about a pending criminal investigation, which is confidential under state law.” It ignores that “The Constitution limits Congress’s powers to those specifically enumerated; and the Tenth Amendment ensures that any unenumerated powers are left to the States.” Given this and a long history of legal decisions, “it is clear that Congress cannot have any legitimate legislative task relating to the oversight of local prosecutors enforcing state law.” And Donald Trump and his lawyers have the legal protections they need to defend him, should he be charged, with the Supreme Court remaining as a last resort. “Congress has no role to play.”
In closing, “While the DA’s Office will not allow a Congressional investigation to impede the exercise of New York’s sovereign police power, this Office will always treat a fellow government entity with due respect. Therefore, again, we request a meet and confer to understand whether the Committee has any legitimate legislative purpose in the requested materials that could be accommodated without impeding those sovereign interests.”
There are times when a polite letter to Republicans leaves you wondering if the author understood that the Republicans are not operating in good faith. This is not one of those times. Alvin Bragg’s office knows what’s going on here, and it’s not going to grandstand like Jim Jordan, but it’s also not going to be pushed around.
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