Donald Trump’s campaign against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been aggressive, even by the Republican’s standards. The former president last week called the prosecutor “a degenerate psychopath that truely [sic] hates the USA.” Soon after, Trump said Bragg is “doing the work of Anarchists and the Devil.”
Subtle, it was not.
The New York Times reported that the former president, behind the scenes, hoped that the over-the-top attacks “might persuade” Bragg “to walk away from the case.” In other words, Trump thought he might be able to bully the district attorney into submission. He learned otherwise late yesterday afternoon.
But it wasn’t just Trump. At House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s urging, three powerful House GOP chairs — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer of Kentucky, and House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil of Wisconsin — wrote to Bragg last week, seeking, among other things, his congressional testimony.
As we discussed soon after, it was a difficult move to defend, especially with grand jury proceedings underway. There was simply no sensible justification for congressional leaders interfering with the case. Jordan, Comer, and Steil did it anyway. (They also sought information from former prosecutors who worked with Bragg.)
The general counsel for the Manhattan DA’s office wrote back to the GOP congressmen, denounced their request, and effectively told them to pound sand. That led the trio to send another missive, demanding that Bragg explain himself.
The district attorney’s office wasn’t impressed. NBC News reported this morning:
The Manhattan district attorney’s office said in a new letter to several GOP committee chairmen Friday that it will not submit to any requests that “interfere” with the office’s Trump investigation. “Like any other defendant, Mr. Trump is entitled to challenge these charges in court and avail himself of all processes and protections that New York State’s robust criminal procedure affords,” the office’s general counsel, Leslie Dubeck, wrote about the Trump indictment. “What neither Mr. Trump nor Congress may do is interfere with the ordinary course of proceedings in New York State.”
After reminding the congressmen that they still don’t have the authority to interfere in a criminal prosecution at the state level, and noting that they could use their positions to encourage Americans to trust the integrity of the judicial system, Dubeck added a rather pointed paragraph.
“Instead, you and many of your colleagues have chosen to collaborate with Mr. Trump’s efforts to vilify and denigrate the integrity of elected state prosecutors and trial judges and made unfounded allegations that the Office’s investigation ... is politically motivated,” she wrote. “We urge you to refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference.”
This was, as best as I can tell, the first time Bragg’s office has raised the prospect of Trump partisans possibly engaging in “unlawful political interference.”
I won’t pretend to know how Jordan, Comer, and Steil will respond to the latest correspondence, but it’s likely that they’ll soon have a conversation about whether to subpoena the New York prosecutor. That would be absurd, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.