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Manhattan DA tells House GOP he’ll resist ‘federal interference’ with Trump grand jury probe

Alvin Bragg

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (Photo via David Dee Delgado at Getty Images)

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told House Republicans on Thursday that they will resist any “federal interference” with the investigation into former President Donald Trump.

Addressed to Trump-loyalist Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Bryan Steil, R-Wisc., and James Comer, R-Tenn., the five-page letter responds to the GOP-led committees’ requests for information about the investigation spearheaded by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D).

“As articulated below, the District Attorney is obligated by the federal and state constitutions to protect the independence of state law enforcement functions from federal interference,” Bragg’s general counsel Leslie Dubeck wrote, blasting the GOP’s “unprecedent[ed] 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,” Dubeck added, citing reporting by the New York Times.

If charged by a grand jury, Bragg would be pursuing an unprecedented prosecution of a former U.S. president. The focus of his investigation never has been officially confirmed — and the letter does not reveal any details of the probe — but is widely presumed to be about hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.

Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, now a key witness for the DA, pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations for arranging for the payment.

The Department of Justice agreed that Cohen executed the transfer — in a complicated transaction involving a home equity line of credit, a shell company and Daniels’ then-attorney Keith Davidson — in “coordination with and at the direction of” Trump. In return, Cohen received reimbursement payments from the Trump Organization in monthly installments of $35,000, in checks signed by Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr., according to the Justice Department. Federal prosecutors never charged Trump with any crime in relation to that payment, however.

The New York Times first reported that the DA has been eyeing a possible charge of falsifying business records under New York law. Though a misdemeanor, the count could become a felony if prosecutors prove Trump committed the crime with an intent to defraud in the commission of a separate offense. If that other charge were a federal campaign finance violation, that could set up a battle over what legal experts have described as a novel application of the laws of two jurisdictions.

The DA’s letter goes into none of those controversies, rattling off the various reasons why U.S. Congress members are not entitled to know what a local prosecutor is up to.

The letter notes that the GOP’s inquiry “seeks non-public information about a pending criminal investigation, which is confidential under state law.”

“These confidentiality pro visions exist to protect the interests of the various participants in the criminal process — the defendant, the witnesses, and members of the grand jury — as well as the integrity of the grand jury proceeding itself,” the letter states. “Like the Department of Justice, as a prosecutor exercising sovereign executive powers, the District Attorney has a constitutional obligation to ‘protect the government’s ability to prosecute fully and fairly,’ to ‘independently and impartially uphold the rule of law,’ to ‘protect witnesses and law enforcement,’ to ‘avoid flight by those implicated in our investigations,’ and to ‘prevent additional crimes.'”

The GOP’s inquiry would also violate New York’s sovereignty, protected under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the letter says, adding that no criminal investigation would be fair game for a congressional inquiry.

“Congress is not the appropriate branch to review pending criminal matters,” the letter notes. “As the Supreme Court noted in Watkins, ‘Congress [is not] a law enforcement or trial agency.'”

The DA’s office offered to meet and confer to discuss whether any part of the lawmakers’ request can be accommodated.

Jordan’s press secretary did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Read the letter here.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."