Washington DC – The New York prosecutor overseeing the charges against former United States President Donald Trump hit back at top Republican lawmakers, calling their accusations that the case is politically motivated “baseless and inflammatory.”
In a letter to the leaders of powerful House panels on Friday, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg denied lawmakers’ request for documents from the state investigation into Trump.
Bragg, an elected Democrat, reiterated that Congress has no right to interfere in local criminal prosecutions.
“Like any other defendant, Mr. Trump has the right to challenge these charges in court and to avail himself of all the due process and protections afforded by New York State’s strict criminal procedure,” said the letter signed by Leslie Dubeck, the district attorney’s chief attorney.
“What neither Mr. Trump nor Congress can do is interfere with the normal course of action in New York State.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is seen leaving his office following the historic decision to indict Donald Trump.
Bragg led an investigation into hush money paid to an adult film star, leading to a grand jury vote to indict the former US president 👇 pic.twitter.com/FHYqB3udzd
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 31, 2023
The letter came less than 24 hours after a grand jury voted to indict Trump in connection with a hush money payment his former personal attorney made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The exact allegations remain unclear.
It’s the latest response in an exchange between Bragg’s office and the Republican chairmen of the Judiciary, Oversight and Administration committees.
Top Republicans first sent the letter to Bragg’s office on March 20 — days after Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, said he expected to be arrested in the New York probe.
Then they asked the district attorney for a statement about what they called a “politically motivated prosecutor’s decision” and asked for internal documents related to the investigation.
Bragg responded by claiming that their demands constituted an “unlawful encroachment on the sovereignty of New York.” In the US federal system, states are responsible for overseeing and running their own justice systems.
Republican lawmakers wrote to Bragg again last week, arguing that “the potential criminal indictment of a former President of the United States by an elected local prosecutor of an opposing political party (and who will face the possibility of re-election) implicates significant federal interests.”
On Friday, Bragg’s office called Republican lawmakers’ focus on the Trump case “an inappropriate and dangerous usurpation of executive and judicial functions.”
Trump’s indictment marked the first time a former president has been criminally charged. That sparked an avalanche of criticism from Republicans, who accused Bragg of meddling in the 2024 election.
Many of Trump’s potential presidential rivals also came to his defense and sharply criticized the New York prosecutor.
“Weaponizing the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to announce a presidential bid, said in a social media post. “That’s un-American.”
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy also accused Bragg of putting the “sacred justice system” in arms against the former president, while GOP Congressman Clay Higgins said in a tweet: “Bragg is a political pawn in a game he’s too stupid to understand. He is a peon, a fat zero.”
Friday’s letter also offered Bragg an opportunity to defend the indictment, which has not been made public.
“The charges filed yesterday were brought by the citizens of New York, performing their civic duty as members of a grand jury, who found probable cause to indict Mr. Trump for crimes in New York,” it said.
Grand juries, which approve indictments, consist of randomly selected citizens.
Bragg’s office also chided the Republican House Speakers for failing to condemn Trump’s attacks on the justice system, noting that the former president warned last week of potential “death and destruction” if he is indicted.
“Instead, you and many of your colleagues have chosen to cooperate with Mr. Trump’s efforts to smear and impeach the integrity of elected state prosecutors and trial judges and have made baseless claims that the Bureau’s investigation, conducted by an independent grand jury of average citizens serving New York. York State, is politically motivated,” the letter reads.
Trump is expected to be arraigned next week, when he will be processed through the criminal justice system and appear in court to be formally presented with the charges.
US law does not bar people facing criminal charges from running for president, so Trump is likely to continue his campaign in 2024.