Alvin Bragg's office rejects House GOP questions about Donald Trump criminal investigation
WASHINGTON – Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office told three House Republican chairmen their request for testimony about the criminal investigation of former President Donald Trump had no legitimate basis and represented “an unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty.”
The lawmakers – Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, head of the Judiciary Committee; James Comer of Kentucky, head of the Oversight and Accountability Committee; and Bryan Steil of Wisconsin, head of the Administration Committee – requested Bragg’s testimony Monday after Trump said he expected to be indicted.
But Leslie Dubeck, Bragg’s general counsel, replied in a letter Thursday that the Justice Department has a longstanding policy against providing nonpublic information about its investigations. Dubeck said the Trump inquiry – one of thousands conducted by the office – and information about a pending investigation is confidential under state law.
“And if charges are brought at the conclusion, it will be because the rule of law and faithful execution of the District Attorney’s duty require it,” Dubeck said. “These are quintessential police powers belonging to the State, and your letter treads into territory very clearly reserved to the states.”
Dubeck cited a court decision saying a congressional investigation is “indefensible” if “conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to ‘punish’ those investigated.”
Here’s what we know about the inquiry:
Trump sounds alarm about possible arrest
The heart of the New York investigation into Trump appears to focus on a hush-money payment that Trump's longtime lawyer and political fixer Michael Cohen arranged from Trump to porn actress Stormy Daniels. The $130,000 payment aimed to prevent her from publicizing her claim of having had sex with Trump before the 2016 election.
Trump has denied wrongdoing but admitted to making the payment to Daniels. He announced Saturday he expected to be arrested Tuesday, which didn’t happen, and his lawyers later said he based the prediction on press reports. Trump also called for supporters to protest the charges.
“I did absolutely nothing wrong, I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels, nor would I have wanted to have an affair with Stormy Daniels,” Trump said on his social media site Truth Social. “I relied on counsel in order to resolve this extortion of me.”
Bragg’s office: no ‘legitimate basis’ for House inquiry
Bragg’s office said neither Trump’s “false expectation” of arrest nor his lawyers’ call for a House investigation justified a congressional inquiry of a pending criminal probe.
“Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry,” Dubeck said.
State law keeps the information about criminal inquiries confidential before charges are filed. The goal is to protect the defendant, the witnesses and members of the grand jury. Dubeck told the lawmakers the same standards apply at the federal level.
“There is almost no precedent for Congress attempting to subpoena such material, and even fewer examples of the DOJ actually producing such material,” Dubeck said.
Why do House chairmen want to question Bragg?
The House chairmen seek to question Bragg because charging a former president would be unprecedented and the inquiry “appears to be politically motivated” because Trump is running for president again.
Bragg hasn’t detailed the potential charges the grand jury is exploring. But the chairmen questioned legal strategies reported in news stories that Bragg could link a misdemeanor charge of falsifying business records dealing with the hush money with a felony charge such as a campaign finance violation for the money helping his 2016 presidential campaign.
The chairmen characterized Cohen as a “disgraced former lawyer,” who was imprisoned, in part for his role in the payment, and called the possible legal strategy “tenuous and untested.”
Dubeck replied that Trump will have ample opportunity to defend himself if he’s charged. Dubeck said if a grand jury indicts Trump, Bragg’s office will be obligated to provide a significant amount of information to his defense about the case.
“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 in the Courts of New York, which are equipped to consider and review such objections,” Dubeck said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alvin Bragg's office rejects House GOP questions about Trump inquiry