Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sued Rep. Jim Jordan on Tuesday, an extraordinary move as he seeks to halt a House Judiciary Committee inquiry that the prosecutor contends is a “transparent campaign to intimidate and attack” him over his indictment of former President Donald Trump.
Bragg, a Democrat, is asking a judge to invalidate subpoenas that Jordan, the committee’s Republican chair, has issued or plans to issue as part of an investigation of Bragg’s handling of the case, the first criminal prosecution of a former U.S. president.
U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, a Trump appointee who previously served as a federal bankruptcy court judge, declined Tuesday to take immediate action on the lawsuit. She scheduled an initial hearing for April 19 in Manhattan, the day before the committee plans to question, under subpoena, a top former prosecutor who was involved in the Trump probe.
Bragg’s lawsuit, a forceful escalation after weeks of sparring with Jordan and other Republican lawmakers in letters and media statements, seeks to end what it says is a “constitutionally destructive fishing expedition” that threatens the sovereignty and integrity of a state-level prosecution.
“Congress lacks any valid legislative purpose to engage in a free-ranging campaign of harassment in retaliation for the District Attorney’s investigation and prosecution of Mr. Trump under the laws of New York,” the lawsuit says, citing the lack of authority in the Constitution for Congress “to oversee, let alone disrupt, ongoing state law criminal matters.”
In response, Jordan tweeted Tuesday: “First, they indict a president for no crime. Then they sue to block congressional oversight when we ask questions about the federal funds they say they used to do it.”
The Judiciary Committee recently issued a subpoena seeking testimony from a Mark Pomerantz, the former prosecutor who previously oversaw the Trump investigation and sparred with Bragg over the direction of the probe before leaving the office last year. Pomerantz, who has declined to cooperate with the committee, is under subpoena to testify at a deposition on April 20 unless Vyskocil intervenes. The committee has also sought documents and testimony from the DA’s office but Bragg has rejected those requests.
The committee is scheduled to hold a hearing in Manhattan on Monday on crime in New York City and what it alleges 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 that if Jordan, who is from Ohio, “really cared about public safety,” he would travel to some of the major cities in his home state, where crime is reportedly higher than in New York.
Bragg is represented in the lawsuit by Theodore Boutrous, a well-known First Amendment lawyer who has also represented Trump’s estranged niece, Mary Trump, in legal clashes with her famous uncle.
Vyskocil previously made headlines when she dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought against Fox News host Tucker Carlson by former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was paid $150,000 through the National Enquirer to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. In on-air remarks, Carlson called the payoff “a classic case of extortion,” but Vyskocil ruled in 2020 that the conservative commentator was engaging in “rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary” and that he was not “stating actual facts.”
In his lawsuit, Bragg said he’s taking legal action “in response to an unprecedently brazen and unconstitutional attack by members of Congress on an ongoing New York State criminal prosecution and investigation of former President Donald J. Trump.”
Trump was indicted on March 30 with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign to bury allegations that he had extramarital sexual encounters. He has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty at an arraignment last week in Manhattan.
Republicans have been railing against Bragg even before Trump’s indictment, with Jordan leading the cause by issuing a series of letters and subpoenas to individuals involved with the case. Pomerantz refused to voluntarily cooperate with the committee’s request last month at the instruction of Bragg’s office, citing the ongoing investigation.
Jordan sees Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, who were top deputies tasked with running the investigation on a day-to-day basis, as catalysts for Bragg’s decision to move ahead with the hush money case.
Bragg’s lawsuit sets up what is an already tenuous fight over the scope and limits of congressional oversight powers into new territory. House Republicans have argued that because the Manhattan case involves campaign finance and what prosecutors say was a conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election, Congress has direct oversight.
Many expected that Jordan would subpoena Bragg by now but it appears the forceful back-and-forth between the two elected officials has come to a head. Jordan’s committee has come hard at Bragg, but a court fight over a committee subpoena could impede its momentum and amplify criticism among Democrats that the panel is playing politics instead of addressing substantive issues.
Amiri reported from Washington. Associated Press reporter Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.
Author: Michael R. Sisak, Farnoush Amiri, The Associated Press