WASHINGTON (CN) — Getting ahead of a news cycle sure to be dominated by the expected indictment of Donald Trump, a group of House Republicans heaped criticism Monday on the New York prosecutor in charge of the criminal investigation.
Trump himself has been vocal in recent days about reports that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is close to unsealing charges from a federal grand jury. The probe stems from the $130,000 that the adult actress Stormy Daniels collected ahead of Trump's 2016 election to keep from going public with her allegation that she and Trump had an extramarital dalliance in 2006.
Whether that payment can support a campaign finance charge against Trump is unclear, but the indictment of a former president is thus far unprecedented in U.S. history.
In a letter Monday to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan framed the effort as an abuse of prosecutorial authority.
“This indictment comes after years of your office searching for a basis — any basis — on which to bring charges, ultimately settling on a novel legal theory untested anywhere in the country and one that federal authorities declined to pursue,” wrote Jordan, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “If these reports are accurate, your actions will erode confidence in the evenhanded application of justice and unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election.”
Jordan, alongside House Administration chair Bryan Steil and House Oversight chair James Comer, accused Bragg’s office of taking advantage of New York state law to elevate the severity of the Daniels scandal to a felony charge from a misdemeanor. The lawmakers argued that the legal theory behind such a move, which extended the statute of limitations on the state’s investigation, was a new and untested interpretation of the law.
The House Republicans also sought to discredit one of the district attorney’s main witnesses — former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who went to prison after pleading guilty to false statements to Congress, tax fraud and campaign-finance fraud stemming from the hush money paid to Daniels out of his personal account.
“This case relies heavily on the testimony of Michael Cohen, a convicted perjurer with a demonstrable prejudice against President Trump,” Jordan wrote. “Under these circumstances, there is no scenario in which Cohen could fairly be considered an unbiased and credible witness.”
Pointing to the decision in 2019 by Trump's own Justice Department not to pursue charges, the lawmakers question what aspects of the hush money investigation have changed to warrant the ongoing investigation.
“The inference from the totality of these facts is that your impending indictment is motivated by political calculations,” the letter states.
Jordan called for Bragg to testify before Congress by Wednesday about his investigation into Trump. The Ohio Republican also requested communications between the New York County District Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department related to the inquiry.
"We will not be intimidated by attempts to undermine the justice process, nor will we let baseless accusations deter us from fairly applying the law," a spokesperson for the district attorney's office told Courthouse News in an emailed statement Monday evening.
President Trump appeared convinced Saturday that an indictment was coming this week, forecasting in a post on his social media network Truth Social that he could be arrested as early as Tuesday.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy weighed in Monday from the GOP’s annual retreat in Florida, where he angled for a slightly more bipartisan approach.
“It doesn’t matter if this was President Trump, or if this was a Democrat,” the California Republican said. “It should be equal justice in America. Stop going after people because you have political differences.”
In a Tweet Saturday, McCarthy accused Bragg of abusing his power and said he would direct House committees to investigate the use of federal funds to support what he called politically motivated prosecutions.
As of Monday afternoon, the grand jury in New York had yet to indict former President Trump or signal whether it soon would.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.