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Trump acolytes in Congress willing to trample rule of law

Going after the Manhattan DA would violate separation of powers and New York’s sovereignty.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (center) talks to Rep. Thomas Massie during a March 9 subcommittee hearing on what Republicans say is the politicization of the FBI and Justice Department and attacks on American civil liberties.Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Threats to the rule of law don’t always come from fatigue-wearing thugs willing to invade the nation’s Capitol.

No, some threats come from within, from guys in shirts and ties willing to abuse their congressional offices in defense of an ex-president best known for his willingness to put his obsession with staying in office ahead of the Constitution he swore to uphold.

So perhaps no one should be surprised that such acolytes of Donald Trump as Representative Jim Jordan, now head of the House Judiciary Committee, and two Republican fellow travelers would think nothing of meddling in the on-going investigation of Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.


Jordan, along with House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer and House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil, sent a letter calling for Bragg to testify “about what plainly appears to be a politically motivated prosecutorial decision.”

Oh and by the way, Bragg was instructed to bring with him “All documents and communications between or among the New York County District Attorney’s Office and the US Department of Justice, its component entities, or other federal law enforcement agencies referring or relating to your office’s investigation of President Donald Trump.” The committee also requested all documents related to the DA’s office receipt of and use of federal funds.

The Justice Department, which had received a similar request back in January, had already told Jordan and company to basically take a hike. DOJ is probing Trump’s post-presidency handling of classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home.

“Consistent with longstanding policy and practice, any oversight requests must be weighed against the Department’s interests in protecting the integrity of its work,” the DOJ letter said. “Longstanding Department policy prevents us from confirming or denying the existence of pending investigations in response to congressional requests or providing non-public information about our investigations.”


But Jordan can’t seem to take no for an answer, so no sooner had Trump announced his own expected indictment in Manhattan involving the payment of hush money to a porn star, Jordan and his fellow Republican chairs bored in on Bragg.

The five-page response from Bragg’s general counsel, Leslie Dubeck, is clear, lawyerly, and exceedingly polite. But the answer was still no.

Dubeck writes that the committee “seeks non-public information about a pending criminal investigation, which is confidential under state law. . .

“These confidentiality provisions exist to protect the interests of the various participants in the criminal process — the defendant, the witnesses, and members of the grand jury — as well as the integrity of the grand jury process itself.”

The Dubeck letter also notes that the committee’s “requests are an unlawful intrusion into New York’s sovereignty,” and that “Congress is not the appropriate branch to review pending criminal matters.”

So to help Trump, Jordan is willing to trample on the whole notion of separation of powers. Dubeck quoted a Supreme Court decision that found “Congress [is not] a law enforcement or trial agency. These are the functions of the executive and judicial departments of government.”

And then, of course, there is the not-so-small matter of state sovereignty as guaranteed under the 10th Amendment, which once upon a time meant something to Republicans — at least prior to the coming of the Age of Trump.

“We trust that you appreciate the importance of our federal system, state law enforcement activities, and the critical need to maintain the integrity and independence of state criminal law enforcement from federal interference,” Dubeck wrote.


Trump has provided ample evidence during and after his tenure in the White House that the rule of law is of little or no concern to him. That he has now enlisted three House committee chairs into this ongoing cabal should be a source of shame to the entire Republican Party.

Jordan may be a bully, but he is no fool. Surely he didn’t expect Bragg to roll over and play dead for his committee, to provide confidential information and in doing so violate his own oath of office. Jordan’s game is intimidation — and playing to Trump and the MAGA crowd that worships him.

How pathetic that the rule of law must take a beating in the process.

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.