NY prosecutor rejects Republican ‘incursion’ into Trump probe

Manhattan district attorney’s office says congressional Republicans have no right to interfere in a local case.

Alvin Bragg
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office says US lawmakers' attacks on a grand jury investigation concerning former President Donald Trump 'are an unlawful incursion into New York's sovereignty' [File: Yuki Iwamura/Reuters]

The Manhattan district attorney overseeing an investigation that could lead to criminal charges against former United States President Donald Trump has rejected Republican lawmakers’ attacks on the inquiry, accusing them of an “unlawful incursion” into his jurisdiction.

Alvin Bragg’s office sent a response on Thursday to a letter from key Republicans in the US Congress demanding he testify about what they called a “politically motivated prosecutorial decision”.

Bragg’s office is investigating claims that Trump authorised a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election, and the case garnered renewed attention at the weekend after the former president said he expected to be arrested.

In their letter this week, Republican legislators in the House of Representatives also requested documents relating to the investigation. Bragg’s office said the requests violated the US system in which states, not the federal government, have police power.

“The Letter’s requests are an unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty,” said the written response signed by Leslie Dubeck, the district attorney’s general counsel.

“Congress’s investigative jurisdiction is derived from and limited by its power to legislate concerning federal matters.”

Bragg’s office also dismissed the accusation that the Trump investigation is politically motivated, stressing that Congress is not the right venue to address any issues with a local prosecution.

“The Letter’s allegation that the DA’s Office is pursuing a prosecution for political purposes is unfounded, and regardless, the proper forum for such a challenge is the Courts of New York, which are equipped to consider and review such objections,” it said.

Bragg, an elected Democrat, has become a target of Trump and his allies since his office empanelled a grand jury to determine whether to bring criminal charges against the former president.

The case revolves around the payment that Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen made to Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Daniels said she had an affair with Trump, who is married, and Cohen said he paid her on Trump’s orders.

The former president has denied the affair and said the payment was to protect his reputation from a false accusation, insisting that he did nothing wrong.

A grand jury has been meeting behind closed doors this week to determine whether to lay charges against Trump.

Several US media outlets have reported that the potential charges relate to the way Trump reimbursed Cohen with prosecutors alleging that he improperly labelled the payments as legal expenses.

If the payment is determined to be a campaign donation, it could also have violated election laws that cap contributions to political candidates at $2,700 per individual and require them to be made public. It remains unclear what exact charges Trump could be facing.

On Saturday, Trump said he expected to be arrested on Tuesday and urged his supporters to protest.

Republican lawmakers were quick to come to the defence of the former president, who is seeking the White House again in 2024.

“Alvin Bragg should focus on prosecuting actual criminals in New York City rather than harassing a political opponent in another state,” the Republican members of the House judiciary committee wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “Make Manhattan Safe Again!”

On Monday, the Republican chairmen of three powerful House committees sent their letter rebuking Bragg.

“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,” the heads of the House judiciary, oversight and administration panels wrote.

In his response on Thursday, Bragg said the congressional request came after “Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day”.

Bragg called for a meeting with the committees’ staff members to “better understand 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”.

Trump continued to hit out at Bragg this week, invoking crime rates in New York City, which have been on the rise since before the district attorney took office last year.

“The District Attorney’s Office under Alvin Bragg is allowing Violent Crime to flourish in New York City, like never before, while he spends all of his time making his Office, which is in total chaos, trying to find anything on ‘Trump’,” the former president wrote on his Truth Social platform.

“He is doing the work of Anarchists and the Devil, who want our Country to fail.”

Homicide rates fell in New York last year, but other crimes, including robbery, surged.

Source: Al Jazeera