House GOP escalates defense of Trump with New York field hearing seeking to discredit Alvin Bragg

(CNN) House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are exemplifying the lengths they’re keen to go to discredit Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s felony case in opposition to former President Donald Trump with a Monday New York field hearing on Bragg’s residence turf.

House Republicans are seeking to make the case that Bragg is extra centered on going after Trump for political causes than addressing crime in New York City, a declare Bragg vehemently denies.

Democrats are pushing again, arguing that Republicans are performing as an extension of Trump’s defense workforce and saying they need to focus as a substitute on public questions of safety like gun violence. A spokesperson for the Manhattan DA’s workplace said in a statement forward of the hearing that the occasion is a “political stunt.”

The hearing, billed as specializing in crime in New York, comes because the authorized drama between Bragg and House Republicans has intensified in current days. Bragg sued House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan and sought to block him from taking sure investigative steps, arguing that Congress would not have oversight authority over state-level felony prosecutions.

It serves as the most recent instance of how Trump continues to wield huge energy on Capitol Hill as House Republicans search to curry favor with the previous president, coming to his defense by way of their investigations and routinely updating him and his closest advisers on their progress. In the wake of his indictment, Trump referred to as up members of House GOP management and key committee members to shore up assist on Capitol Hill, an individual acquainted with the matter informed CNN.

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan opened Monday’s hearing by going after Bragg for being “soft on crime.”

“Here in Manhattan, the scales of justice are weighed down by politics. For the District Attorney, justice isn’t blind. It’s about looking for opportunities to advance a political agenda, a radical political agenda rather than enforcing the law,” Jordan mentioned in his opening remarks.

Despite the claims from high Republicans, Manhattan’s current levels of each violent crime in general and murder particularly are down considerably from the report ranges of the early 1990s.

While there was an uptick in many varieties of crime in Manhattan in 2022 in contrast to 2021, a quantity of crimes have come again down considerably in 2023. Bragg took workplace as Manhattan DA in 2022.

Monday’s hearing would be the first in a sequence of field hearings specializing in crime in Democratic-run cities, a supply acquainted with Republicans’ plans informed CNN.

Democrats, in the meantime, will argue on the hearing that if Republicans really cared about violent crime, they might not have held the hearing in Manhattan, the place crime is decrease in contrast with different New York City boroughs, and, past that, can be specializing in crime in rural areas, a supply acquainted with Democrats’ plans tells CNN.

Committee Democrats will even strive to pivot the dialog to gun violence, the supply added, and argue that Republicans have refused to work on gun laws although mass shootings proceed to ravage the nation. Prior to the hearing, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the highest Democrat on the House Judiciary panel, and gun security advocates held a information convention.

Nadler mentioned forward of the hearing, “this hearing is being called for one reason, and one reason only: to protect Donald Trump.”

“Jim Jordan and his Republican accomplices are acting as an extension of the Trump defense team … that is an outrageous abuse of power” Nadler mentioned.

Monday’s occasion marks the primary time that Democrats on the committee have joined a field hearing on this session of Congress.

Both sides additionally lobbied to get further members added to the hearing, a normal apply, however a transfer that underscores every social gathering’s need to usher in further voices to assist articulate their respective message. Judiciary Republicans added to their aspect of the dais House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, who represents a district in upstate New York.

“I look forward to holding Democrats accountable for their failure to prosecute crimes and instead engage in illegal political witch-hunts against their political opponents,” Stefanik mentioned in a press release to CNN. The New York Republican is among the many GOP lawmakers in contact with Trump since he was indicted, in accordance to a number of sources acquainted with the matter.

New York Democratic Reps. Dan Goldman and Adriano Espaillat will even be part of Monday’s field hearing. In a joint assertion, the pair argued that by way of this hearing Republicans are attempting to “interfere in an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The witnesses

Witnesses on the field hearing underscored the bigger arguments every social gathering has been seeking to make.

Many of the witnesses referred to as by Republicans spoke first-hand in regards to the crime and violence they’ve skilled in New York as they criticized Bragg for not prosecuting crimes aggressively sufficient.

Those referred to as by House Democrats pointed to statistics that present crime in New York City is declining, argued that Republicans don’t want to handle gun laws, and claimed that Republicans are holding the hearing for political functions.

A Democratic member of the New York City Council referred to as by Republicans on the panel, Robert F. Holden, mentioned, “71 years I’ve lived here in New York City. I’ve seen bad times, high crimes … I’ve not seen the lawlessness that I’m seeing today in New York City in my lifetime.”

A quantity of witnesses referred to as by the Republican aspect criticized Bragg for a memo he launched early in his tenure — some of which has since been revised — that instructed prosecutors to keep away from seeking jail time for a quantity of critical crimes.

The Founder of Victims Rights NY, Jennifer Harrison, mentioned, “from day one, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced he would not prosecute even very violent crimes in his now infamous memo. We saw an immediate result.”

Meanwhile, in a line of questioning led by Nadler, Third Way’s Executive Vice President for Policy, Jim Kessler, outlined how the crime fee in New York City is lower than the nationwide common and even lower than Ohio, the place Jordan lives.

As a end result, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline made a request to transfer Monday’s hearing to Ohio, which was shortly rejected.

Executive Director for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Rebecca Fischer, referred to as by the Democrats, argued that gun violence in New York was the end result of the dearth of motion on a nationwide stage.

“The national gun trafficking crisis is largely the result of weak gun laws in other states, and the fact that Congress has not enacted federal gun violence prevention reforms” Fischer mentioned.

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, in the meantime, started her questioning by calling out violent crime however saying that Congress doesn’t have jurisdiction over crime in New York.

“Let me just say all of us on this committee, no matter our party, are opposed to crime and all of us have sympathy for victims of crime” Lofgren mentioned. “But I will say also that we don’t have jurisdiction. The federal government does not have jurisdiction over state and local prosecutions. That’s up to the voters of each state and each locality.”

The authorized drama

Bragg has pushed again on the GOP’s efforts to examine his felony probe, claiming in his lawsuit, “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 district legal professional additionally took intention at Republicans for interfering in an ongoing felony case, writing that “rather than allowing the criminal process to proceed in the ordinary course, Chairman Jordan and the Committee are participating in a campaign of intimidation, retaliation, and obstruction.”

Bragg requested the courtroom to block the Judiciary committee’s subpoena for testimony from a former senior prosecutor in his workplace, Mark Pomerantz. Pomerantz resigned from the DA’s workplace in 2022, after Bragg mentioned he wasn’t ready to transfer ahead with felony expenses in opposition to Trump. Pomerantz, in his resignation letter, mentioned Trump was “guilty of numerous felony violations” associated to his annual monetary statements.

House Republicans urged a federal choose to reject the Manhattan district legal professional’s workplace request to block a subpoena for testimony from a former prosecutor, saying such a transfer would impede their very own investigation.

Lawyers for Jordan additionally argue they’re immune from Bragg’s lawsuit beneath the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution which protects lawmakers from being sued for actions stemming from their legislative actions.

Jordan has additionally demanded paperwork and testimony from Bragg, in addition to info from one other former prosecutor from his workplace, as half of Jordan’s congressional probe. The engagement from Bragg’s workplace has to this point staved off a congressional subpoena for now.

Republicans have seized on Pomerantz’s earlier feedback as an indication that the 34 felony felony expenses introduced in opposition to Trump this yr in Manhattan have been politically motivated. Trump has pleaded not responsible.

The query round Bragg’s use of federal funds

House Republicans have made the Manhattan District Attorney’s workplace use of federal funds the crux of their justification for why they’ve jurisdiction over Bragg’s case.

Bragg’s workplace disclosed in a recent letter that out of the multiple billion {dollars} in asset forfeiture funds it helped the federal authorities safe, roughly $5,000 was spent on bills relating to Trump or the Trump group between October 2019 and August 2021, however maintains that no federal grant cash was used towards bills within the Trump investigation.

Republicans have seized on this revelation, and have already began introducing laws pertaining to Bragg.

House GOP Rep. Russell Fry of South Carolina launched laws within the House final week that may enable former and present presidents and vice presidents the flexibility to transfer their very own felony or civil circumstances from state courtroom to a federal courtroom. GOP Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona launched a pair of payments, one of which might defund the Manhattan District Attorney’s workplace.

In his lawsuit, Bragg claimed House Republicans have “manufactured new supposed legislative objectives.”

This story has been up to date with further info.

CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed.

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