House Republicans continue to try to intimidate Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as he reportedly considers indicting Donald Trump on criminal charges relating to hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. It continues not working. The back-and-forth between Reps. Jim Jordan, James Comer, and Bryan Steil—the chairs of the Judiciary, Oversight and Accountability, and House Administration committees, respectively—and Bragg got two more entries over the weekend, with a more than seven-page letter from the Republicans met with a terse statement from Bragg.
Jordan, Comer, and Steil insisted at some length that they do too have the right to meddle in a local criminal prosecution. “Contrary to the central argument set forth in your letter, this matter does not simply involve local or state interests,” they wrote. “Rather, the potential criminal indictment of a former President of the United States by an elected local prosecutor of the opposing political party (and who will face the prospect of re-election) implicates substantial federal interests, particularly in a jurisdiction where trial-level judges also are popularly elected.”
This deep concern about politically motivated investigations is coming from people whose entire reason for being is politically motivated investigations. Comer is the guy who wondered why Beau Biden hadn’t been criminally prosecuted, but he’s all upset about this? Once again, the only real rule, the rock-bottom consistency of Republican thought, is that Republicans get to do whatever benefits Republicans.
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“The central allegations at issue,” Jordan, Comer, and Steil claim, are that Bragg’s office is under “political pressure from left-wing activists and former prosecutors” and is “planning to use an alleged federal campaign finance violation, previously declined by federal prosecutors, as a vehicle to extend the statute of limitations on an otherwise misdemeanor offense and indict for the first time in history a former President of the United States.”
Funny story: The U.S. criminal justice system has—at least for powerful people with good lawyers—a whole series of checks and balances in which, if a local prosecutor attempted to prosecute someone for charges that didn’t hold up on a legal level, the case could be challenged and ultimately thrown out. That theory often doesn’t work out for people without money and good lawyers, but someone like Trump absolutely has recourse if Bragg brings a case that isn’t legitimate and shouldn’t be brought. If that was what was happening, Trump would not need House Republicans heading it off at the pass, because he’d be in no legal danger anyway.
Admittedly, whether Trump currently has good lawyers is an open question, given Joe Tacopina's disastrous Meet the Press performance on Sunday, but he can afford them. The fact that Trump does not hire the best lawyers, or has gotten to a place where the best lawyers are hesitant to work with him, is a problem of his own making. Either way, he does not need or deserve representation from the firm of Jordan, Comer, and Steil.
This prosecution matters to and is within the jurisdiction of House committees, the Republicans further claim, because Donald Trump is a former federal official and therefore it is a federal concern if he is indicted at the local level. And what about the Secret Service, they ask. “Federal law requires the United States Secret Service to protect a former President. Therefore, your unprecedented prosecutorial decision raises the potential for conflict between the federal law-enforcement officials required to protect the former President and local law-enforcement officials required to enforce your indictment and exercise control of him throughout his presence in the local criminal justice system.”
I’m … pretty sure that Donald Trump is not going to Rikers anytime soon. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has probably thought about this issue and is capable of talking to the Secret Service itself.
The Republicans’ letter offers a series of other justifications for their efforts to interfere in an ongoing local criminal investigation, but it’s all one thing: You will not mess with Donald Trump without hearing from us.
Bragg responded by tweet. “We evaluate cases in our jurisdiction based on the facts, the law, and the evidence,” he wrote. “It is not appropriate for Congress to interfere with pending local investigations. This unprecedented inquiry by federal elected officials into an ongoing matter serves only to hinder, disrupt and undermine the legitimate work of our dedicated prosecutors. As always, we will continue to follow the facts and be guided by the rule of law in everything we do.”
It doesn’t sound like he’s about to fold.
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