On the heels of former President Donald Trump’s historic indictment, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office on Friday told three top Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House that their “attempted interference with an ongoing state criminal investigation—and now prosecution—is an unprecedented and illegitimate incursion on New York’s sovereign interests.”
U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), James Comer (R-Ky.), and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.)—who chair the House Judiciary, Oversight, and Administration committees, respectively—initially wrote to Bragg last week demanding documents and testimony. In response, the general counsel for Bragg’s office, Leslie Dubeck, called their requests an “unlawful incursion” into state sovereignty.
A second letter from Jordan, Comer, and Steil—public allies of Trump—prompted the six-page response from Bragg’s office on Friday, less than 24 hours after the New York grand jury convened by Bragg over a hush money payment to a porn star voted to indict the former president and 2024 GOP candidate, who is expected to be arraigned Tuesday.
“Your first letter made an unprecedented request to the district attorney for confidential information about the status of the state grand jury investigation—now indictment—of Mr. Trump,” Dubeck wrote to the lawmakers. “Your second letter asserts that, by failing to provide it, the district attorney somehow failed to dispute your baseless and inflammatory allegations that our investigation is politically motivated. That conclusion is misleading and meritless.”
“We did not engage in a point-by-point rebuttal of your letter because our office is legally constrained in how it publicly discusses pending criminal proceedings, as prosecutorial offices are across the country and as you well know,” the general counsel continued. “That secrecy is critical to protecting the privacy of the target of any criminal investigation as well as the integrity of the independent grand jury’s proceedings.”
The letter lays out why the congressmen’s committees “lack jurisdiction to oversee a state criminal prosecution,” and declares that “based on your reportedly close collaboration with Mr. Trump in attacking this office and the grand jury process, it appears you are acting more like criminal defense counsel trying to gather evidence for a client than a legislative body seeking to achieve a legitimate legislative objective.”
Dubeck also took aim at their “vague and shifting legislative purpose.” Only noting it in the second letter suggests “your proposal to ‘insulate current and former presidents’ from state criminal investigations is a baseless pretext to interfere with our office’s work,” she wrote. “Even if you were seriously considering such legislation and had the constitutional authority to enact it (which you do not), your request for information from the district attorney and his former attorneys concerning an ongoing criminal probe is unnecessary and unjustified.”
Manhattan DA’s to House GOP: “What neither Mr. Trump nor Congress may do is interfere with the ordinary course of proceedings in New York State.” pic.twitter.com/pMsUrEa8XW
— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) March 31, 2023
After highlighting that the lawmakers’ initial rationale for the inquiry related to the use of federal funding, the letter notes that over the past 15 years, the DA’s office has helped the federal government secure over $1 billion from asset forfeiture and the office itself “receives only a small fraction of those forfeited funds.”
Dubeck disclosed that from October 2019 to August 2021, approximately $5,000 of the federal forfeiture money was spent investigating the former president or the Trump Organization; most of those costs were related to a case that led to the conviction of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and two Trump business entities, and “no expenses incurred relating to this matter have been paid from funds that the office receives through federal grant programs.”
The letter explains the DA office’s current participation in federal grant programs, then forcefully calls out the congressmen:
Finally, as you are no doubt aware, former President Trump has directed harsh invective against District Attorney Bragg and threatened on social media that his arrest or indictment in New York may unleash “death and destruction.” As committee chairmen, you could use the stature of your office to denounce these attacks and urge respect for the fairness of our justice system and for the work of the impartial grand jury. 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, conducted via an independent grand jury of average citizens serving New York state, is politically motivated. 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.
Dubeck asked that if the lawmakers won’t withdraw their request, they agree to a meeting and provide a list of questions for Bragg as well as a description of documents they believe could be turned over to Congress “without violating New York grand jury secrecy rules or interfering with the criminal case now before a court.”
“We trust you will make a good-faith effort to reach a negotiated resolution,” she concluded, “before taking the unprecedented and unconstitutional step of serving a subpoena on a district attorney for information related to an ongoing state criminal prosecution.”
The latest letter from the DA’s office “is really a work of art,” independent journalist Marcy Wheeler said in a series of tweets on Friday. “It was a joy to read. Bragg is not fucking around and… well, Jimmy Jordan is.”