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Prosecutor accuses Republicans of collaborating with Trump in apparent legal threat

By Sarah May
|
April 1, 2023

In the ongoing war of threatening words between top House Republicans and Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg over the recent indictment of former President Donald Trump, the latter's general counsel fired off a letter on Friday declaring allegations of a selective, politically motivated prosecution to be “baseless and inflammatory,” as Politico reports.

The latest salvo from Bragg's office came in the form of a six-page letter responding to demands from the chairs of the House Judiciary, Oversight, and Administration Committees for documents and testimony related to the probe and now-confirmed indictment of Trump.

Battle of wills heats up

The aforementioned demands from House Republican leaders came when the Trump indictment was merely anticipated and not yet announced, and they were accompanied by indications from Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) that he intended to investigate whether federal funding or collaboration was involved in actions against the former president, as ABC News noted.

A letter sent to Bragg by the chairs of the three panels declared, “You are reportedly about to engage in an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority: the indictment of a former President of the United States and current declared candidate for that office” and made their demand for his cooperation.

As the New York Post reported soon after, Bragg – again through an aide – rebuffed that request, saying, “the District Attorney is obliged by the federal and state constitutions to protect the independence of state law enforcement functions from federal interference.”

Bragg's representative added, “the D.A.'s Office will not allow a Congressional investigation to impede the exercise of New York's sovereign police power and attempted to cast doubt on whether there was any legitimate basis for a House inquiry of any kind.

“Misplaced and unconvincing”

Unsurprisingly, the response from Bragg's office was not well received by the Republican committee chairs, with the trio joining together to issue a dissatisfied written reaction last weekend, as The Hill reported.

“Your conclusory claim that our constitutional oversight responsibilities will interfere with law enforcement is misplaced and unconvincing,” the GOP leaders noted in an eight-page letter.

The group wrote, “As a threshold matter, whether your office is, in fact, fairly enforcing the law or abusing prosecutorial discretion to engage in a politically motivated indictment of a former president is a serious matter that...implicates significant federal interests.”

“Accordingly,” the lawmakers added, “we reiterate the requests in our March 20 letter and ask that you comply in full as soon as possible but no later than March 31, 2023.”

Bragg bites back

Friday's communication from Bragg's office to the Republican panel chairs was the first such formal exchange since the indictment of Trump was confirmed, and in it, the district attorney's general counsel reiterated the reasons for his prior denial of cooperation and took aim at the motivations of the legislators who requested it.

“Like any other defendant, Mr. Trump is entitled to challenge these charges in court and avail himself of all processes and protections that New York State's robust criminal procedure affords,” the letter stated.

“What neither Mr. Trump nor Congress may do is interfere with the ordinary course of proceedings in New York State,” Bragg's general counsel added.

After urging the congressmen to “refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference,” Bragg's office accused Republicans of working “to collaborate with Mr. Trump's efforts to vilify and denigrate the integrity of elected state prosecutors and trial judges...” in what was arguably an escalation of the public battle between the two sides.

What's next?

According to Politico, House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (OH-04) did not provide immediate comment on the latest letter from Bragg's office, but there has been at least some talk of the possibility that a subpoena might be issued to compel the district attorney's involvement in the Republican inquiry.

Oversight Chair James Comer (KY-01) has gone on record labeling the indictment of Trump “a political stunt,” as Politico further noted, but was unsure about how best to respond. “I think before the next step we'll have to see what, in fact, these charges were and then go from there.”

Bragg's general counsel, for her part, suggested that a “negotiated resolution” is the best course of action, warning federal legislators against taking what she called “the unprecedented and unconstitutional step of serving a subpoena on a district attorney for information related to an ongoing state criminal prosecution.”

According to Fox News, Trump is expected to appear in New York City for arraignment on Tuesday, and once the full details of the charges against him are known, it seems all but certain that the intense rancor already surrounding his case will only continue to rise as it makes its way through the system.