News that Donald Trump has been indicted did not cause Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office to miss a step in fighting the House Republican effort to interfere in the investigation and prosecution. The morning after the big news, Bragg’s office sent another letter to Reps. Jim Jordan, James Comer, and Bryan Steil, the three committee chairs demanding documents from an ongoing criminal matter, describing that effort as “unlawful political interference.”
Most recently in the back-and-forth, Jordan, Comer, and Steil had responded to the DA’s response to their initial demand, again insisting that this wasn’t just a local prosecution but one with federal implications that made it the business of the Congress. Bragg released a brief statement at the time making clear he would not be backing down, but now, Leslie Dubeck, the general counsel for the DA’s office, is out with a more complete response.
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Much of the letter repeats things the DA’s office already said: Congress simply does not have jurisdiction over state and local criminal investigations. It’s a point they’ve made again and again, and one backed by a lot of laws and court cases, but the Republicans refuse to accept it. But it adds a few new things.
For one, it calls out Jordan, Comer, and Steil for the “vague and shifting legislative purpose” they’re claiming for their demands. In their second letter, the Republicans claimed they needed to hear from Bragg because, hey, maybe they were going to pass a law protecting former presidents from such investigations. However, “You did not identify any such legislative purpose in your initial letter, suggesting that your proposal to ‘insulate current and former presidents’ from state criminal investigations is a baseless pretext to interfere with our Office’s work.” Additionally, Congress most likely does not have the authority to pass such a law, and if it did, there would be many more relevant witnesses than Bragg.
Bragg’s office does give the Republicans some of what they demanded: a description of what federal funds the office receives and how those are used. But not without noting, “Over the last decade and a half, this Office has contributed to the federal fisc. Indeed, the DA’s Office has helped the Federal Government secure more than one billion dollars in asset forfeiture funds in the past 15 years. The DA’s Office receives only a small fraction of those forfeited funds.” One small chunk of the federal money the office has received was used on a Trump investigation, it turns out: as part of a successful Supreme Court case, which affirmed that presidents are not immune from state criminal investigations.
The letter also goes on the offense, highlighting how Jordan, Comer, and Steil are essentially collaborating with Trump to try to derail the investigation and prosecution and calling on them to stop. “As you are no doubt aware, former President Trump has directed harsh invective against District Attorney Bragg and threatened on social media that his arrest or indictment in New York may unleash ‘death & destruction,’” Dubeck wrote. “As Committee Chairmen, you could use the stature of your office to denounce these attacks and urge respect for the fairness of our justice system and for the work of the impartial grand jury.”
That is definitely not what is happening.
Instead, you and many of your colleagues have chosen to collaborate with Mr. Trump’s efforts to vilify and denigrate the integrity of elected state prosecutors and trial judges and made unfounded allegations that the Office’s investigation, conducted via an independent grand jury of average citizens serving New York State, is politically motivated. We urge you to refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference.
With Trump now indicted, it’s likely that Republican efforts to vilify the DA’s office and derail the prosecution will reach a fever pitch.
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