Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office on Thursday rejected as “unlawful” the demands by three House GOP chairs who'd sought sensitive details about his investigation of former President Donald Trump.
Leslie Dubeck, Bragg’s general counsel, wrote to Judiciary, Oversight and Administration Committee Chairs Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), James Comer (R-Ky.) and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) in response to their requests for an interview with Bragg as well as a swath of documents. Dubeck countered that the newly launched GOP probe is “an unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution.”
“The Letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene. Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry,” she wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.
Her letter amounts to a sharp rebuke of a GOP inquiry launched days after Trump personally predicted his own imminent arrest, nudging House Republicans to rally behind him. Dubeck indicated that Bragg’s office had adopted the Justice Department’s longstanding position to refuse to provide Congress with details of ongoing criminal investigations — while also saying that the office would “meet and confer” with the lawmakers’ aides to determine if any information could be shared.
“The District Attorney is obliged by the federal and state constitutions to protect the independence of state law enforcement functions from federal interference. The DA's Office therefore requests an opportunity to meet and confer with committee staff to better understand what information the DA's Office can provide that relates to a legitimate legislative interest and can be shared consistent with the District Attorney's constitutional obligations,” Dubeck wrote.
The senior Republicans' request for information — supplemented Wednesday by two additional letters from Jordan — raises unusual questions about the scope of Congress’ jurisdiction over state and local criminal matters. Democrats sharply rejected the notion that Congress plays any role in overseeing non-federal investigations.
Dubeck's reply came just ahead of a 10 a.m. deadline that Republicans set for Bragg to set up an closed-door transcribed interview with their aides, as well as to hand over a broad swath of documents including any related to potential federal funding of or involvement in his work.
Dubeck said that Bragg's office would submit a letter describing its use of federal funds — which Speaker Kevin McCarthy indicated could face revocation. She further requested a meeting with committee staff to determine if they had “any legitimate legislative purpose in the requested materials that could be accommodated without impeding those sovereign interests.”
But Dubeck emphasized that questions about the office’s use of federal funds does not justify a congressional attempt to unearth nonpublic information about the ongoing probe.
Broadly speaking, her letter emphasized that even though Bragg's office sharply rejects the notion that its Trump probe is political, the forum for probing those allegations would be court proceedings in New York, not Congress.
Comer, Jordan and Steil didn’t immediately respond on Thursday. But House Judiciary Republicans' Twitter account tweeted shortly after the letter that “Alvin Bragg should focus on prosecuting actual criminals in New York City rather than harassing a political opponent in another state.“
The initial letter from Comer, Jordan and Steil didn’t hint at what their next steps would be if Bragg didn’t comply with their request. Jordan, in particular, frequently hints at using a “compulsory” process — in other words, a subpoena — if his demands aren’t meant, but the trio's letter did not include that phrasing.
Jordan also sidestepped questions on Wednesday about whether he would try to subpoena Bragg if they didn’t comply with their requests.
The House GOP letter to Bragg emerged in the middle of the conference's three-day confab in Orlando, Fla., a gathering meant to focus on their broader agenda. Bragg is reportedly preparing for the possibility that the former president will be indicted on charges related to alleged hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.
The threat of an indictment loomed over the retreat, the latest example of House Republicans' inability to escape Trump's long shadow. McCarthy (R-Calif.) almost immediately vowed that he would direct committees to investigate the potential indictment, and Republicans got questions at nearly every press event they held in Florida.
And Trump’s social-media suggestion of an imminent arrest appeared to have achieved its intended goal by sparking a near-immediate rush of support from House Republicans, including McCarthy’s vow that he would direct committees to investigate.
Jordan also wrote to former special prosecutors Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, both worked on the investigation before leaving last year, on Wednesday night with a request for interviews and documents.