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The key reason the DOJ didn’t prosecute Trump’s hush money case

Three powerful House Republican committee chairs are ignoring the fact that Team Trump derailed the federal investigation into the hush money scandal.


When three powerful House Republican committee chairs wrote to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg yesterday, they seemed quite animated about a Donald Trump indictment that does not yet exist. The GOP lawmakers even argued that Bragg shouldn’t bring charges because federal prosecutors looked at the same evidence and passed on the case.

From the letter signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer and House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil:

“By July 2019 ... federal prosecutors determined that no additional people would be charged alongside [Michael] Cohen. ... [Y]our apparent decision to pursue criminal charges where federal authorities declined to do so requires oversight....”

For now, let’s overlook some of the letter’s errors in judgment, including the fact that the word “apparent” was doing a lot of work in the Republicans’ letter. Let’s instead consider the claim on the merits: Federal prosecutors examined the same fact, the GOP argument goes, and decided not to pursue an indictment. With this in mind, Jordan, Comer and Steil effectively asked why the Manhattan district attorney’s office would disregard the Justice Department’s conclusion and consider going in the opposite direction. In fact, to hear the committee chairs tell it, the fact that Bragg is moving forward after federal prosecutors passed on the case is necessarily evidence of the local prosecutor going too far.

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For his part, Trump has pushed a related line of attack.

There is, however, a highly relevant detail that Republicans are conveniently overlooking.

As Rachel explained on last night’s show, it’s true that this case was initially a federal case, initiated by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. In fact, they’re the ones who prosecuted Michael Cohen, who paid Stormy Daniels in the hush money scandal.

At that point, did federal prosecutors conclude that the case was simply over and walk away? Not exactly.

What they actually found was that Cohen acted at Trump’s direction and to Trump’s benefit. Why didn’t prosecutors pursue the matter further? According to Geoffrey Berman — the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, who wrote a book about his experiences — it’s because there was political interference from other Trump appointees who ordered prosecutors to end their investigation.

Indeed, according to Berman’s book, then-Attorney General Bill Barr not only intervened in the case, he tried to kill the ongoing investigation and even suggested that Cohen’s conviction should be reversed.

The GOP committee chairs wrote yesterday that federal prosecutors “determined that no additional people would be charged alongside Cohen,” but they conveniently overlooked why they made that determination.

It wasn’t because of a thorough review of the law; it was because Trump’s attorney general told them to stop — because in the previous administration, the brazen politicization of federal law enforcement was the norm.

Were Jordan, Comer, and Steil unaware of these details, or did they simply choose not to care?