House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) said a New York district attorney leading the investigation to potentially arrest former President Donald Trump is facing a deadline to answer questions before three congressional panels.
“We gave him until Thursday to come forward,” Steil told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview about the push to demand answers from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “We look forward to his response.”
Bragg is reportedly planning to arrest Trump over an alleged “hush money” payment during the 2016 election. The former president is accused of furnishing money to adult entertainment actress Stormy Daniels to hide allegations of an affair between the two, which Trump denies.
Steil is one of three Republican committee chairs in the House of Representatives demanding information in a joint letter (pdf) about Bragg’s rationale in the looming indictment. He was joined in formulating the letter by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.).
House Admin Chairman @RepBryanSteil, Judiciary Chairman @Jim_Jordan , and House Oversight Chairman @RepJamesComer sent a letter to Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg demanding communications, documents & testimony relating to Bragg’s unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority. pic.twitter.com/jW3RklvHWu
— House Admin. Committee GOP (@HouseAdmin) March 20, 2023
“I think the question that needs to be answered is: Is this a political move? When you look at the fact that previous prosecutors have reviewed this and ultimately made a decision not to prosecute, and he made a previous decision he wasn’t going to move forward and now he is moving forward, what changed? The only thing that changed is President Trump has announced he is running for reelection,” Steil said.
“I think that broadly for the American people we are concerned about the politicization of our judicial system, and as you look at this case there are clear questions that I think need to be answered about whether there is a misuse of federal funds that are intended to actually do things like reduce crime that are actually being repurposed for political purposes.”
Bragg has not yet agreed to appear before the congressional panel for a transcribed interview, and Steil said that if the district attorney refuses to cooperate with the investigation, he will consult with other members of the committee on whether to subpoena Bragg to compel his appearance.
“We’ll make decisions and consultations with Jim Jordan and Jamie Comer if he doesn’t respond,” Steil said, adding that he’s hopeful that Bragg will respond to the request.
‘Politically Motivated Prosecution’
During his time as a district attorney, Republicans argue that Bragg has regularly reduced felony charges, including violent felonies, to misdemeanors, a track record that Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said was seen as “a matter of pride” by Bragg.
“Your decision to pursue such a politically motivated prosecution—while adopting progressive criminal justice policies that allow career ‘criminals [to] run the streets’ of Manhattan—requires congressional scrutiny about how public safety funds appropriated by Congress are implemented by local law enforcement agencies,” Jordan wrote in the joint letter.
Besides Bragg’s reported soft-on-crime policies, Republicans have questioned whether the district attorney has used federal funds—which were provided to his office to fight a New York crime surge—to politically target Trump in the potential indictment.
“So this is the broader question that’s underlying this, which is, are there federal resources being utilized for political purposes, and that is I think a really appropriate question … for your federal government to be asking local prosecutors,” Steil said.
On Monday, the Manhattan DA’s office issued a response to House Republicans’ demands to have Bragg testify, saying “We will not be intimidated by attempts to undermine the justice process.”
“Many false claims have been lobbed out, so let’s set the record straight,” a spokesperson for Bragg told news outlets in the first public response to inquiries linked to the Trump investigation. “New York remains one of the safest big cities in the U.S.”
No U.S. president has faced criminal charges while in office or afterward. If indicted in the coming days, Trump will likely be brought to New York City for processing, including fingerprinting and standard paperwork, and later be arraigned with a magistrate judge.
Trump has said that he will continue campaigning even if charged with a crime, and he is expected to hold a rally later in March in Waco, Texas.
Steil said the potential indictment will be a “very significant moment” in American history, noting that if these charges come forward, there is a real concern about the precedent this would set.
“We live in the greatest democracy the world has ever seen in the United States of America and what we can’t allow is a weaponization of our judicial system for political purposes,” he said.
‘Tenuous and Untested’
Critics of the reportedly impending arrest have argued that in addition to being beyond the statute of limitations, the charges against Trump are based on allegations that other prosecutors dismissed.
Jordan accused Bragg’s office of spending years “searching for a basis—any basis—on which to bring charges” against the former president.
He noted that even The Washington Post—a publication vehemently opposed to Trump and his allies—considers the charges “unusual” in view of the fact that “prosecutors have repeatedly examined the long-established details but decided not to pursue charges.”
The legal basis for the case, Jordan said, relies heavily on testimony from Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who has been convicted of perjury in the past.
“Cohen has been vocal about his deeply personal animus toward President Trump,” he said. “Under these circumstances, there is no scenario in which Cohen could fairly be considered an unbiased and credible witness.”
Rather than respect for the rule of law, Jordan suggested, the investigation has been “motivated by political calculations” by Bragg.
Epoch Times reporter Joseph Lord contributed to this report.