A trio of House Republican committee chairs say the House of Representatives could soon take up legislation to strip state and local prosecutors of the authority to prosecute former presidents in response to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s potential indictment of former president Donald Trump.
In a letter to Mr Bragg, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, and House Administration Committee Chair Bryan Steil rejected arguments the Manhattan prosecutor gave in response to the trio’s demand that he give evidence before their panels about the ongoing investigation into Mr Trump.
Mr Bragg’s probe could result in the twice-impeached ex-president becoming the first former US chief executive to face criminal charges over hush money payments he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016.
Last week, Mr Bragg’s office slammed the 20 March demand for his testimony as “an unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution” which only arose “after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged [Congress] to intervene”.
“Your letter treads into territory very clearly reserved to the states. It suggests that Congress’s investigation is being ‘conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to ‘punish’ those investigated,’ and is, therefore, ‘indefensible,’” said Leslie Dubek, who is Mr Bragg’s general counsel, in a response sent to the chairmen on Thursday.
In response, Jordan, Comer and Steil said their inquiry is legitimate because “the potential criminal indictment of a former President of the United States by an elected local prosecutor of the opposing political party (and who will face the prospect of re-election) implicates substantial federal interests”.
They added that Mr Bragg’s work falls under the jurisdiction of Mr Jordan’s House Judiciary Committee because that panel — and Congress — has “a specific and manifestly important interest in preventing politically motivated prosecutions of current and former Presidents by elected state and local prosecutors, particularly those tried before elected state and local trial-level judges”.
“Therefore, the Committee on the Judiciary, as a part of its broad authority to develop criminal justice legislation, must now consider whether to draft legislation that would, if enacted, insulate current and former presidents from such improper state and local prosecutions,” they said.
“Because your impending indictment of a former President is an issue of first impression, the Committees require information from your office to inform our oversight”.
The ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland,. has condemned his GOP colleagues’ actions as “nonsensical interference” committed at the behest of Mr Trump, who faces multiple criminal investigations into his conduct being overseen by Mr Bragg, as well as Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis and a federal special counsel, Jack Smith.
“These Committee chairs have acted totally outside their proper powers to try to influence a pending criminal investigation at the state level,” Mr Raskin added.
Because the Senate has a Democratic majority and the White House is held by President Joe Biden, a Democrat, it’s highly unlikely that any bill shielding ex-presidents from prosecution could ever be enacted into law.
But House Republicans have vowed to use their authority to protect Mr Trump even as the criminal investigations into his conduct move closer to the charging stage.
A spokesperson for Democrats on the House Oversight Committee told The Independent the trio GOP committee chairs who signed the letter to Mr Bragg “believe former President Trump is above the law”.
“This outrageous position is further evidence of former President Trump and MAGA extremists’ hold on Congressional Republicans,” he said.
With additional reporting by agencies