NEW YORK — When Donald Trump declared over the weekend that the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, was about to have him arrested, he called for his supporters to “PROTEST.” Instead, it was Republican leaders who hurried to the former president’s defense.
Among them were three powerful congressional Republicans who sent a letter demanding that Bragg provide them with communications, documents, and testimony about his inquiry, which is expected to result in criminal charges against Trump.
On Thursday, Bragg pushed back forcefully against that demand, which his office called an inappropriate attempt by Congress to impede a local prosecution.
“The letter’s requests are an unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty,” said the district attorney’s general counsel, Leslie Dubeck. Prosecutors are typically barred from sharing information about an active investigation with third parties, and Dubeck noted in her letter that such information was “confidential under state law.”
Bragg’s office is investigating the role Trump played in a hush-money payment to a porn actress, and there have been several signals that the prosecutors are nearing an indictment. Still, the exact timing remains unknown.
Trump’s prediction of his own arrest — which proved inaccurate — and the rapid Republican response come at a time of sharp political tensions and threaten to further weaken public trust in the rule of law. It was once rare for elected officials to comment on independent inquiries, for fear of seeming to influence them improperly. But Trump’s willingness to wade in has led his party to embrace his method: tarring investigations as political while simultaneously politicizing those investigations.
While in the White House, Trump slammed the inquiry led by special counsel Robert Mueller — as politically biased, even as his attorney general, William Barr, challenged a federal case related to the hush-money payment that Bragg is now investigating. Trump also trespassed on the Justice Department’s independence and fired both the FBI director and his first attorney general because he viewed them as insufficiently loyal.
Now that Trump is out of office, his power over the Republican Party is encouraging similar interference — this time into an investigation of a potential state crime by a local prosecutor operating under New York law.
Representative Glenn Ivey, Democrat of Maryland, a former prosecutor, said that he had been “astonished” to see the letter to Bragg, “essentially calling on him to violate grand jury secrecy laws in New York.” The letter was sent by Representatives Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, of the Judiciary Committee; James Comer, Republican of Kentucky, of the Oversight and Accountability Committee; and Bryan Steil, Republican of Wisconsin, of the Administration Committee.
“My call was for those three to withdraw the letter immediately, hopefully recognizing the mistake that they had made, but that’s too much to ask, I suppose,” Ivey said.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, an ally of the district attorney, said that Jordan was “out of control” and was “trying to put his thumb on the scale for his friend Donald Trump.” Nadler expressed appreciation for Bragg’s response.
The events that led to the chairs’ letter began with the Saturday post from Trump, which, along with saying he would be arrested Tuesday, called on his supporters to protest, in charged language reminiscent of his social media posts in the weeks before the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Republicans quickly responded. The speaker of the House, Representative Kevin McCarthy, called for investigations into whether federal funds were being used for “politically motivated prosecutions,” a thinly veiled threat to Bragg. The former president’s closest competitor in the 2024 Republican primary, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, said Bragg was “weaponizing” his office.
In her letter, Dubeck, the district attorney’s general counsel, wrote that the committee chairs’ letter was seemingly prompted by two events: Trump’s post and one of his lawyers having urged Congress to intervene, according to a New York Times report. “Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry,” she said.
Her letter requested a meeting with the Republican committee members to understand whether their committees had “any legitimate legislative purpose in the requested materials that could be accommodated.”
The letter came as Jordan was taking steps toward issuing subpoenas. Jordan’s top lawyer reached out to Bragg’s office Wednesday to ask who could receive a subpoena. The lawyer also claimed someone in Bragg’s office had twice hung up the phone on an aide of Jordan’s who had called previously, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office declined to comment, other than to say that the office was assessing the credibility of the claim.
Jordan also sent letters Wednesday to the two former leaders of the investigation, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, demanding documents and testimony relating to Bragg’s case. Dunne and Pomerantz both resigned from their positions in the district attorney’s office in February 2022 after Bragg decided not to seek a separate indictment of Trump related to his business practices.
Dunne, Dubeck’s predecessor as general counsel, declined to comment, as did Pomerantz.
Trump, for his own part, used racist language to describe the district attorney Thursday, referring to Bragg, who is Black, as an “animal” in a post on his social media platform. Later in the day, he posted a link that included two juxtaposed images — one of him wielding a bat and the other of Bragg with a hand raised — suggestive of a physical attack on the district attorney.
The district attorney’s prosecutors have been presenting evidence to a grand jury since January, and there have been a number of signals that they are likely to indict Trump soon. First, they told Trump’s lawyers that he could testify before the grand jury in his own defense, a right granted to people who are nearing indictment. (He declined.) They have also questioned nearly every witness involved in the hush-money payment to the porn actress, Stormy Daniels, in front of the grand jury.
But an indictment is not expected until next week at the earliest. The grand jury hearing evidence about Trump does not meet on Fridays.