Republicans accused by New York DA of meddling in Trump hush-money case
The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, on Thursday accused Republicans in the US Congress of interfering in his investigation of Donald Trump over a hush money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels.
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A letter from House Republicans demanding testimony and documents related to the investigation “only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested … and his lawyers repeatedly urged you to intervene”, Bragg wrote in a letter of his own.
Such circumstances, he said, did not represent “a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry”.
Bragg published his letter as it became clear another day would pass without an indictment of the former US president for offences related to the $130,000 payment made in 2016 and potentially including falsification of business records, tax fraud and/or campaign finance violations.
The grand jury considering the case is not due to meet again until Monday.
Last weekend, amid reports an indictment was imminent, Trump said he expected to be arrested on Tuesday.
That day came and went without an arrest but aides to the former president have told outlets, including the Guardian, that Trump wants to be seen in handcuffs and has even mused on how being shot while being arraigned might help him return to the White House.
Trump is under extensive legal jeopardy as he runs for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
An indictment is also thought likely in Georgia, over Trump’s election subversion efforts there. Trump also faces federal investigations of his election subversion and his retention of classified records, a New York civil suit over his business practices and a defamation suit arising from an allegation of rape by the writer E Jean Carroll.
Trump denies all wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of political witch-hunts mounted by Black prosecutors he says are racist.
Bragg is the first Black Manhattan DA and only the fourth man to fill the post on a permanent basis since the second world war.
The payment to Stormy Daniels was made by Trump’s then lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, and discovered in 2018. Cohen went to jail, in part over the payment, and turned on his former boss. But Bragg’s investigation of what members of his own team came to call a “zombie case” has never run smoothly.
Republicans in Congress have accused Bragg of acting politically while neglecting crime in his city. They have also repeatedly called him “Soros-backed”, a reference to donations by the progressive financier George Soros, a target for antisemitic invective on the US right.
In the Daniels case, the Republicans made their demands to Bragg on Monday.
Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics tsar now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, called the Republican letter “a transparent effort to interfere with the investigation of Trump in New York”, with “no legitimate congressional purpose” and “contrary to law”.
On Thursday, Bragg addressed his reply to Jim Jordan, the chair of the House judiciary committee; Bryan Steil, chair of the administration committee; and James Comer, chair of the oversight committee.
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The Republican congressmen, he said, had attempted an “an unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution”.
Claiming “quintessential police powers belonging to the state” of New York, Bragg accused the Republican congressmen of “tread[ing] into territory very clearly reserved for the states”.
He also said the Republican request would interfere with law enforcement efforts requiring confidentiality.
Nonetheless, Bragg requested a meeting with committee staffers, to “understand what information the DA’s office can provide that relates to a legitimate legislative interest and can be shared”.
He also said he would “submit a letter describing [the] use of federal funds”.