GOP threatens to suspend prosecutor as Trump indictment looms
WASHINGTON — Republicans’ defense of former President Donald Trump has taken a surprising turn: They’re threatening to pull the prosecutor.
For years, Trump and his fellow GOP candidates have pilloried progressive Democrats for promoting a “defund the police” movement that seeks to divert funds from traditional law enforcement to community services aimed at reducing criminality.
The progressives’ slogan proved a strong enough weapon for Republicans against Democrats that Joe Biden felt compelled during his 2020 campaign to call for additional federal spending on police.
But now, as Trump plans to be indicted over allegations he illegally paid money to adult film star Stormy Daniels as part of his successful 2016 bid for president, Republicans in the House are threatening to fund the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. More broadly, the GOP seeks to weaken prosecutors whose campaigns were backed by liberal billionaire George Soros.
“Your decision to pursue such a politically motivated prosecution – while embracing progressive criminal justice policies that empower “career criminals” [to] run[ ] the streets of Manhattan – requires careful congressional scrutiny of how public safety funds appropriated by Congress are implemented by local law enforcement agencies,” said Jim Jordan, R-Ohio , James Comer, R-Ky., and Bryan Steil, R-Wisconsin, wrote to Bragg on Monday.
The three lawmakers, respectively chairmen of the Judiciary, Oversight and Administrative Committees, invited Bragg to testify before them and demanded that he turn over “all communications” between his office and other local and federal agencies responsible for law enforcement. They also requested all communications from his office regarding the use of federal money.
Their letter follows President Kevin McCarthy’s weekend tweet pledging to “investigate whether federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”
Trump is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
The Department of Justice provides money to state and local prosecutors’ offices through various grant programs — including those designed to tackle violent crimes, hate crimes and sexual assault — but they represent only a small portion of the Manhattan District Attorney’s budget.
Yet Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman who has become a vocal critic of his party, said GOP lawmakers would be outraged if Democrats wanted to investigate federal funding of a local prosecutor based on an ongoing case.
“Now you have Republicans talking about ‘we want to take your money,'” he said. “If a Democrat behaved this way, these same people would lose their s—. It’s as simple as that.”
In an interview on Fox News on Monday, Jordan dodged a question about what Congress would do regarding federal funding for the attorney’s office.
“It’s a concern for us,” he said, focusing on his interest in obtaining records of all of Bragg’s communications with other law enforcement agencies.
But in another twist, it was political money — not federal money — that dominated much of the GOP discussion of possible indictment.
Since Trump announced on Saturday — without apparent evidence — that he was likely to be indicted on Tuesday, he and other Republicans have targeted the support Soros-backed entities have given to progressive candidates for elected prosecutorial positions.
“I have no interest in getting involved in a circus fabricated by a Soros-DA,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is Trump’s main rival for the GOP presidential nomination, said in his first public remarks. since Trump postulated that he would be indicted. this week.
Trump and his allies were outraged on Monday at what they saw as a weak defense of the former president in which DeSantis also repeated allegations made against him. But the repetition of Trump’s own attacks on Soros and Bragg has momentarily — and curiously — put the two leading GOP presidential candidates in the position of sharing a common declared enemy.
The comfortable political ground for all Republicans is to attack the Liberals, Democrats and big city prosecutors they elect. This helps explain the House GOP’s insistence on investigating federal funds that flow to the Manhattan District Attorney. The other obvious reason is that it gives them an entry point to seek testimony and records from a local prosecutor, since Congress oversees federal money. It’s perhaps worth noting that House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger, R-Texas, whose panel is in charge of spending, did not sign the letter.
DeSantis and other Republicans have long targeted Soros for backing prosecutors who promote policies not to enforce certain crimes — in part because the same philosophy is at the heart of the “defund the police” movement. The billionaire’s name appears eight times in DeSantis’ recent book.
In one passage, he contrasts the non-enforcement desires of some Soros-backed officials in Florida with “a prosecutor’s duty to prosecute.”
A McCarthy aide provided a copy of House Republicans’ 2022 “Pledge to America” agenda in response to a question about the difference between defunding the police and defunding a prosecutor. In it, Republicans promise to “oppose all efforts to defund the police” and to “crack down on prosecutors who refuse to prosecute crime.”
But, flipping the argument, Republicans are now pushing for a prosecutor to avoid indicting Trump.
Steele said the party had coiled around an axis trying to defend its former and possible future leader.
“Here’s the kicker,” he said. “Donald Trump wouldn’t have had to pay a porn star $130,000 if he hadn’t had an affair with her while his wife was delivering his son. So chew that GOP.
Trump denied having an affair with Daniels. Her youngest son was born in March 2006, months before Daniels said he had sex with Trump.