The New York City prosecutor on Thursday rejected a demand by congressional Republican lawmakers that he hand over documents linked to his investigation of former President Donald Trump’s $130,000 hush money payment to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election to buy her silence about an affair she claims to have had with Trump.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg assailed the request earlier this week by three committee chairmen in the House of Representatives as "an unlawful incursion into New York's sovereignty." The three lawmakers — Jim Jordan, James Comer and Bryan Steil — had called Bragg’s investigation of Trump an "unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority."
Bragg’s general counsel, Leslie Dubeck, told the lawmakers that their letter “only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested [Tuesday] and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene. Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry."
"If a grand jury brings charges against Donald Trump, the DA's Office will have an obligation, as in every case, to provide a significant amount of discovery from its files to the defendant so that he may prepare a defense," Dubeck wrote.
The Republican committee chairmen had told Bragg, "You are reportedly about to engage in an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority: the indictment of a former president of the United States. This indictment comes after years of your office searching for a basis — any basis — on which to bring charges.”
Lawmakers refer to case as 'zombie'
On Thursday, Jordan, an Ohio congressman, demanded testimony and documents from Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, two former New York prosecutors who had been leading the Trump case before quitting last year when Bragg appeared to have abandoned the Trump investigation.
"Last year, you resigned from the office over Bragg's initial reluctance to move forward with charges, shaming Bragg in your resignation letter — which was subsequently leaked — into bringing charges," Jordan wrote in the letter to Pomerantz. "It now appears that your efforts to shame Bragg have worked as he is reportedly resurrecting a so-called 'zombie' case against President Trump using a tenuous and untested legal theory."
Trump has not been charged in the case, although the grand jury investigation is continuing.
Bragg has been bringing witnesses before the 23-member grand jury to testify about the payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, hush money to silence her for what she alleges was a one-night affair with Trump in 2006 at a hotel where Trump was attending a golf tournament. Trump has long denied the affair.
Probe focuses on payment
The investigation centers in part on details of the payment made to Daniels and whether the transaction amounts to a criminal offense. If charged, Trump would be the first-ever U.S. president indicted in a criminal case.
Trump’s one-time lawyer and political fixer Michael Cohen wrote her a check out of his personal funds and then was reimbursed by Trump, who recorded it as a business expense for legal fees to Cohen on the ledgers of the Trump Organization, his real estate business, rather than recorded as a campaign expense related to his successful 2016 run for the presidency.
Cohen served more than a year in prison for his role in the payment and other offenses. He since has turned into a sharp Trump critic and grand jury witness against him.
Trump announced his intention to seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination months ago and says he would keep campaigning even if he is charged with a criminal offense. Numerous national polls show him as the front-runner for the Republican nomination, although several other Republicans have either announced their own candidacies or said they are seriously considering a race against Trump.
Trump had regularly lambasted the New York investigation as a political witch-hunt and called Bragg, who is Black, a “racist.”
Trump was impeached twice during his presidency, once in 2019 over his conduct demanding Ukraine investigate then candidate Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and again in 2021 over the attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters. He was acquitted by the Senate both times.
Some material in this report came from The Associated Press.