Manhattan DA blasts House GOP for ‘unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution’
In a letter responding to the Republican chairs of the House Judiciary, Oversight, and Administration committees, the general counsel for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office says that “if charges are brought at the conclusion” of the investigation into former President Donald Trump, “it will be because the rule of law and faithful execution of the District Attorney’s duty require it”.
Manhattan District Attorney’s office general counsel Leslie Dubeck called the letter sent by the chairmen on 20 March “an unprecedent inquiry into a pending local prosecution”.
“The Letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene. Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry,” she added.
The chairmen wrote in their letter that the DA’s investigation into Mr Trump was an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority,” demanding documents and an interview with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.
The grand jury case concerns hush money payments made to women who have made allegations that they have had affairs with Mr Trump.
The DA’s general counsel wrote that “your letter treads into territory very clearly reserved to the states. It suggests that Congress’s investigation is being ‘conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to ‘punish’ those investigated,’ and is, therefore, ‘indefensible’.”
Ms Lubeck added that “the District Attorney is obliged by the federal and state constitutions to protect the independence of state law enforcement functions from federal interference”.
“The DA’s Office therefore requests an opportunity to meet and confer with committee staff to better understand what information the DA’s Office can provide that relates to a legitimate legislative interest and can be shared consistent with the District Attorney’s constitutional obligations,” she said.
Ms Lubeck states that the letter from the House Republicans is seeking information that’s not available to the public regarding a pending criminal investigation, “which is confidential under state law”.
She goes on to note that the DA’s office is following the “longstanding” Department of Justice “policy of not providing Congress with non-public information about investigations”.
“There is almost no precedent for Congress attempting to subpoena such material, and even fewer examples of the DO] actually producing such documents,” the letter states.
Ms Lubeck goes on to call the requests made by the GOP chairmen an “unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty”.
She said it’s “generally understood that a Congressional committee may not” probe issues that are reserved for the states to handle.
Quoting from Bond v United States, she notes that “perhaps the clearest example of traditional state authority is the punishment of local criminal activity”.
She adds that therefore, “federal interference with state law enforcement” is inconsistent with the “federal framework”.
“It is clear that Congress cannot have any legitimate legislative task relating to the oversight of local prosecutors enforcing state law,” Ms Lubeck writes, calling Congress “not the appropriate branch to review pending criminal matters”.
The general counsel said that if a grand jury chooses to charge Mr Trump, the DA “will have an obligation, as in every case, to provide a significant amount of discovery from its files to the defendant so that he may prepare a defense”.
She then criticised an allegation posed by the GOP chairmen in their letter to the DA that its investigation is politically motivated, calling the claim “unfounded”.
“And regardless, the proper forum for such a challenge is the Courts of New York, which are equipped to consider and review such objections,” she said.
Ms Lubeck noted that the chairmen said in their letter that their requests could be connected to a probe of federal public safety funds.
“But the Letter does not suggest any way in which either the District Attorney’s testimony about his prosecutorial decisions or the documents and communications of former Assistant District Attorneys on a pending criminal investigation would shed light on that review,” Ms Lubeck says.
She added that the DA is still preparing a letter “describing its use of federal funds”.
The chair of the House Administration Committee, Representative Brian Steil, told the AP earlier this week that “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”.
Democrats said on Monday that the efforts to get information about the investigation were an abuse of power.
“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,” Maryland Democrat Rep Jamie Raskin told the AP.