A trio of Republican House chairmen is demanding testimony from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) ahead of his potential prosecution of former President Donald Trump in connection with hush money payments made ahead of the 2016 election.
The letter to Bragg comes after Trump claimed over the weekend that he could be arrested as soon as Tuesday and asked his supporters to prepare to protest on his behalf.
It also comes before Bragg has officially made any decision on charging Trump with a crime, and raised concerns among Democrats who said the GOP was inappropriately interfering with the investigation.
The GOP lawmakers cited Trump’s announced bid for office in 2024 in asking for documents and communication about the probe. They said Bragg should sit for an interview “as soon as possible.”
“Your actions will erode confidence in the evenhanded application of justice and unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wrote in the letter, which was also signed by Chairmen James Comer (R-Ky.) and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), who lead the Oversight and Administration committees.
“In light of the serious consequences of your actions, we expect that you will testify about what plainly appears to be a politically motivated prosecutorial decision,” Jordan continued.
Bragg’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The move alarmed Democrats even before the letter was officially sent.
“Defending Trump is not a legitimate legislative purpose for Congress to investigate a state district attorney,” Rep. Daniel Goldman (N.Y.), who before joining Congress worked as a counsel to Democrats in Trump’s first impeachment, wrote on Twitter.
“Congress has no jurisdiction to investigate the Manhattan DA, which receives no federal funding nor has any other federal nexus,” Goldman added.
The letter follows the House GOP’s recent creation of a subcommittee on the “weaponization” of the government. That panel has the power to oversee “ongoing criminal investigations.”
“Using a congressional committee to bully a state DA sounds like…the weaponization of the federal government,” House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) wrote on Twitter.
The letter says Bragg’s probe “requires congressional scrutiny about how public safety funds appropriated by Congress are implemented by local law-enforcement agencies.”
Bragg’s investigation is focused on Trump’s role in directing a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who was prepared to go public with a story she had a sexual relationship with Trump, an affair he denies.
Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen arranged the payment, was reimbursed by Trump for the work as legal expenses and failed to disclose it in campaign finance records. He ultimately pleaded guilty and served jail time for his involvement in arranging the payments, something he said he did at the direction of Trump.
The letter runs through what the lawmakers see as a host of issues with a potential case, including the credibility of Cohen.
Bragg reignited the investigation into the matter, which was previously pursued by his predecessor Cyrus Vance, who explored the payment as part of a broader probe before ultimately suspending the probe over concerns with the strength of the case. Bragg has taken up a more narrow focus.
Still, the authors seized on that point, calling it a “zombie” case. They also questioned whether any charges would fit within the statute of limitations, which for New York felonies runs five years. That timeline can be extended, however, when a defendant has consistently lived out of state.
“The inference from the totality of these facts is that your impending indictment is motivated by political calculations,” the lawmakers wrote.
“The facts of this matter have not changed since 2018 and no new witnesses have emerged.”