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House GOP demands testimony and documents from New York prosecutor investigating Trump

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg participates in a news conference in New York on Feb. 7, 2023.
Seth Wenig
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg participates in a news conference in New York on Feb. 7, 2023.

Updated March 21, 2023 at 5:06 PM ET

With a possible indictment looming over former President Donald Trump, House Republicans are coming to his defense and arguing that the probe led by Alvin Bragg — the Manhattan District Attorney investigating hush money paid on Trump's behalf to adult film actress Stormy Daniels — is politically motivated and won't stand up in court.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, House Oversight Committee Chair Jim Comer, R-Ky., and House Administration Committee Chair Bryan Steil, R-Wis., kicked off their own probe on Monday, sending Bragg a letter demanding documents, communications and testimony related to his investigation of the former president.

The three chairmen called a possible indictment "an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority" and said it was based on "a novel legal theory untested anywhere in the country and one that federal authorities declined to pursue."

They added that if Bragg does indict Trump, Bragg's actions "will erode confidence in the evenhanded application of justice and unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election."

They said they expect him to appear as soon as possible before Congress but did not set a date for a hearing. They gave Bragg a deadline of Thursday to respond to them to set up a possible appearance.

A spokesperson for Bragg's office told NPR in a written statement: "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."

Bragg's spokesperson didn't respond to the lawmakers' requests for documents or testimony, but took issue with GOP criticisms of Bragg's record on crime and added, "In every prosecution, we follow the law without fear or favor to uncover the truth. Our skilled, honest and dedicated lawyers remain hard at work."

Bragg, a Democrat, took office in January 2022. He previously worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of New York before deciding to run for Manhattan DA.

Trump claimed over the weekend in a post on social media that he would be arrested on Tuesday and urged his supporters to protest. But there has been no official announcement of a criminal indictment.

Talk of Trump dominates a House GOP retreat in Florida

This week, House Republicans huddled at their annual retreat in Orlando, Fla., and the former president, who is running for the GOP nomination in 2024, dominated the conversation.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy fielded several questions about Trump at a press conference Sunday evening, and largely focused his response on attacking Bragg's tenure and legal approach, instead of defending Trump's behavior.

McCarthy slammed Bragg's record on crime, saying it helped Republicans retake the House majority in 2022. The Manhattan district attorney's spokesperson says that so far this year homicides and shootings in Manhattan are falling.

"One of the reasons we won races in New York is based upon this DA, of not protecting the citizens of New York, and now he's spending his time on this," McCarthy said. He added about a potential indictment: "This will not hold up in court, if this is what he wants to do."

McCarthy did break with the former president on his calls for protests around any announcement of an indictment, telling reporters, "I don't think people should protest this, no." He added, "We want calmness out there. Nobody hurt, violence or harm to anything else."

As House Republicans sought to showcase their legislative agenda in the majority, questions about Trump continued to be front and center — a dynamic they struggled with during his time in the White House.

At a bilingual press conference with Hispanic Republicans Monday morning, the first question was about Bragg's probe. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., used the same refrain most GOP lawmakers have used, telling reporters, "It certainly smells like it's political."

As the retreat wrapped up Tuesday, McCarthy argued the conversation about the former president wasn't overshadowing their work and told reporters about their huddle in Florida, "so it's not here that we are coming to defend President Trump — what we are coming to defend is equal justice in America."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.