ORLANDO, Fla. – House Republicans rallied to the defense of former President Donald Trump before his possible indictment, demanding that the Manhattan district attorney who is investigating him turn over documents and come for an interview.
The Republican chairmen of three House committees sent a letter Monday to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, seeking information about his actions in the Trump case, which they characterized as an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.” They requested testimony as well as documents and copies of any communications with the Justice Department.
No authorities wanted to take the case but then "what changed? President Trump announces he’s running for president and shazam,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said shortly after sending the letter.
The letter to Bragg — effectively demanding transparency in the middle of a criminal investigation — suggested that Republicans intend to use their House majority to defend Trump as he mounts a second run for president.
Both Bragg and the Justice Department seemed unlikely to respond to the request, given the long-standing practice of prosecutors not divulging information about active cases.
Bragg's office said in a statement it would not be intimidated by what it characterized as attempts to undermine the justice process.
Without saying whether Bragg would comply with the chairmen's request, the statement said the prosecutor's office would not let “baseless accusations” deter it from fairly applying the law. It said its prosecutions follow the law “without fear or favor.”
The grand jury case revolves around hush money payments to women who alleged sexual encounters with Trump. Bragg’s team appears to be looking at whether Trump or anyone committed crimes in New York state in arranging the payments, or in the way they accounted for them internally at the Trump Organization.
Prosecutors have not said when their work might conclude or when charges could come. But law enforcement in New York has been making preparations for any unrest, should Trump face charges.
However, Rep. Brian Steil, chair of the House Administration Committee, said the potential actions of the prosecutor are pretty darn unprecedented.” Steil, whose committee oversees election law, said lawmakers are looking to see whether federal resources have been used by Bragg throughout his investigation.
“I think there’s a broad concern about the politicization of the judicial system, and we are better served as a country if our judicial system writ large is not politicized,” Steil said in an interview.
Democrats on Monday called Republican efforts to seek information from an ongoing investigation “an astonishing and unprecedented abuse of power.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the Oversight committee, assailed the Republican majority's efforts to use its new power to “obstruct a possible criminal indictment.”
He added, "Former President Donald Trump demanded this nonsensical interference over the weekend, and these Committee chairs have acted totally outside their proper powers to try to influence a pending criminal investigation at the state level.”
House Republicans were stalwart defenders of Trump while he was in office and have mostly stood by him even after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, an unprecedented assault that was fueled by Trump's lies about a stolen election. His claims were rejected by state and local officials, the courts and his own Justice Department.
House Republicans are in Orlando, Florida, on a party retreat to plot strategy for the year, but Trump's legal peril quickly became the main focus, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and others faced questions about Trump's call for supporters to protest and “take back our nation.”
McCarthy, a California Republican, said that there should be no protests or violence in response to the DA's decision. But he did focus on Bragg personally.
“People have already looked at these cases and said no to it,” McCarthy said. “So this guy is trying to create something when he has all the crime happening in New York, and he prides himself on not prosecuting everything else."
"So you just see that it is pure politics.”
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak in New York contributed to this story.