NEW YORK (AP) – Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sued Republican Rep. Jim Jordan on Tuesday, an extraordinary move as he seeks to halt a House Judiciary Committee investigation that the prosecutor says is a “transparent campaign of intimidation and attack” against him because of his indictment of former President Donald Trump.
Bragg, a Democrat, is asking a judge to quash subpoenas that Jordan, the Republican chairman of the committee, has issued or plans to issue as part of an investigation into Bragg’s handling of the case, the first criminal prosecution of a former US president.
U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, a Trump appointee who previously served as a federal bankruptcy court judge, on Tuesday declined to take immediate action on the lawsuit. She scheduled an initial hearing for April 19 in Manhattan, a day before the panel plans to question, under subpoena, a former top prosecutor involved in the Trump investigation.
Bragg’s lawsuit, a sharp escalation after weeks of sparring with Jordan and other Republican lawmakers in letters and press statements, seeks to end what it says is a “constitutionally destructive fishing expedition” that threatens the sovereignty and integrity of state prosecutors.
“Congress lacks a valid legislative purpose to engage in a freewheeling campaign of harassment in retaliation for the District Attorney’s investigation and prosecution of Mr. Trump under New York law,” the lawsuit said, citing a lack of authority in the Constitution for Congress to “oversee, let alone disrupt pending criminal matters”.
In response, Jordan tweeted on Tuesday: “First, they are accusing the president of no crime. Then they sue to block congressional oversight when we ask questions about the federal funds they say they used.”
The Judiciary Committee recently issued a subpoena seeking testimony from Mark Pomerantz, a former prosecutor who previously oversaw the Trump investigation and argued with Bragg over the handling of the inquiry before he left office last year. Pomerantz, who has refused to cooperate with the committee, is subpoenaed to testify at the April 20 hearing unless Vyskocil intervenes. The committee also requested documents and testimony from the prosecutor’s office, but Bragg refused those requests.
The committee is scheduled to hold a hearing in Manhattan on Monday on crime in New York and what it says are Bragg’s “pro-crime, anti-victim” policies. The DA’s office, however, points to statistics showing that violent crime in Manhattan has dropped since Bragg took office in January 2022.
In response, Bragg said Jordan, who is from Ohio, “really cares about public safety,” would travel to some of the larger cities in his home state, where crime is reportedly higher than in New York.
Bragg is represented in the lawsuit by Theodore Boutrous, a noted First Amendment attorney who has also represented Trump’s estranged niece, Mary Trump, in legal battles with her famous uncle.
In his lawsuit, Bragg said he was taking the legal action “in response to the unprecedentedly brazen and unconstitutional attack by members of Congress on the ongoing prosecution and investigation of former President Donald J. Trump in New York State.”
On March 30, Trump was indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to secret cash payments during the 2016 campaign to bury allegations that he had extramarital sex. He denied the charges and pleaded not guilty at his trial last week in Manhattan.
Republicans railed against Bragg even before Trump’s indictment, and Jordan led the charge by issuing a series of letters and subpoenas to individuals involved in the case. Pomerantz declined to voluntarily cooperate with the committee’s request last month at the direction of Bragg’s office, citing the ongoing investigation.
Jordan sees Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, who were the top deputies in charge of running the investigation on a day-to-day basis, as the catalysts for Bragg’s decision to pursue the money laundering case.
Bragg’s lawsuit brings an already tenuous fight over the scope and limitations of Congress’s oversight powers into new territory. House Republicans argue that Congress has direct oversight because the Manhattan case involves campaign finance and what prosecutors say is a conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election.
Many expected Jordan to call Bragg by now, but it appears the heated negotiations between the two elected officials have come to a head. Jordan’s committee came down hard on Bragg, but a court battle over the committee’s call could stall his momentum and heighten criticism among Democrats that the council is playing politics instead of addressing substantive issues.
Amiri reported from Washington. Associated Press reporter Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.
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