Manhattan DA's office defends Trump indictment, rebuffing House GOP chairs
Washington — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office accused three House GOP chairmen of attempting to interfere in its prosecution of former President Donald Trump, rebuffing calls from the lawmakers for testimony and documents about an ongoing criminal investigation.
In a letter sent to Reps. James Comer, Jim Jordan and Bryan Steil on Friday, general counsel Leslie Dubeck defended the grand jury's vote to indict the former president, and said the committees' request for information would interfere in prosecutors' criminal case. Comer is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jordan leads the Judiciary Committee and Steil chairs the Committee on House Administration.
"The charges filed yesterday were brought by citizens of New York, doing their civic duty as members of a grand jury, who found probable cause to accuse Mr. Trump of having committed crimes in New York," Dubeck wrote. "The Committees' attempted interference with an ongoing state criminal investigation — and now prosecution — is an unprecedented and illegitimate incursion on New York's sovereign interests."
Dubeck's response comes one day after the district attorney confirmed a New York grand jury had voted to indict the former president, a first in American history. While the indictment remains under seal, the grand jury has been investigating the circumstances surrounding a payment made on Trump's behalf to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors were believed to be probing potential falsification of business records aimed at covering up the payment.
The letter is the latest in a back-and-forth between the GOP chairmen and Bragg's office, which began with the lawmakers' demand for documents and testimony from Bragg on March 20, two days after Trump first said he expected to be arrested. The chairmen accused Bragg of preparing to "engage in an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority" and requested he produce records of any communications with the Justice Department and appear before Congress.
Dubeck responded to that demand three days later, saying that complying would reveal "non-public information about a pending criminal investigation, which is confidential under state law." She said congressional involvement in a state criminal case would be an "unlawful incursion into New York's sovereignty."
The chairmen wrote back on March 25, arguing that Congress has a "compelling interest in protecting the physical safety of former or current Presidents." They reiterated their demand for information, and said "any decision to prosecute a former or current President raises difficult questions concerning how to vindicate that interest in the context of a state or local criminal justice system."
In Friday's response, Dubeck accused the chairmen, all three of whom are staunch Trump allies, of trying to interfere in the probe to benefit the former president.
"[I]t appears you are acting more like criminal defense counsel trying to gather evidence for a client than a legislative body seeking to achieve a legitimate legislative objective," Dubeck wrote.
Dubeck also urged the chairmen to "refrain from these inflammatory accusations" that the case is politically motivated and "let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference."
"[A]s 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, referring to a message Trump posted on his social media platform last week.
"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," she continued. "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."
Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the case, and denounced the indictment as "Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history." He accused Democrats of "weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States."
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