As a grand jury in Manhattan deliberates on whether to recommend District Attorney Alvin Bragg bring charges against former President Donald Trump, congressional Republicans and Democrats alike have begun eyeing the ongoing proceedings as a source of potential political leverage against one another as the country heads into its next presidential election cycle.
Who's making moves, and who's pushing back?
This week, House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), and House Administration Chair Bryan Steil (R-Wisc.) demanded Bragg turn over "communications, documents, and testimony" regarding the grand jury investigation into Trump. In a letter calling for Bragg to testify before Congress, the trio claimed "your actions will erode confidence in the evenhanded application of justice and unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election," while calling reports of a looming indictment an "unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority."
The letter, seemingly prompted by Trump's (ultimately incorrect) assertion that he would be arrested on Tuesday, comes as the former president ratchets up his extreme rhetoric against Bragg and other state and federal investigators probing his various alleged misdeeds. "District Attorney Bragg is a danger to our Country, and should be removed immediately," Trump fumed on his Truth Social account on Friday, shortly before posting a link to Jordan, Comer, and Steil's letter, amidst a flurry of other articles attacking the district attorney.
That Bragg has not actually brought any charges against Trump (and may not at all) has not stopped Republicans from proactively framing the case in purely partisan political terms — seemingly with the blessing of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who is "fully supportive and pushing folks to be aggressive here," according to a GOP source who spoke with Politico's Rachel Bade. Noting that Bragg almost certainly won't acquiesce to testifying about an ongoing criminal probe, Bade questioned whether Jordan might ultimately subpoena, and even hold him in contempt should he not appear, pointing out that "the Justice Department would be unlikely to press charges in a partisan dispute."
Predictably, then, when Bragg finally did respond to the GOP trio's demand, he was unambiguous in his pushback to their "unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution," claiming that compliance would "interfere with law enforcement," "violate New York's sovereignty," and that making the request itself "usurps executive powers."
What's the bigger picture?
Pointing out that the demands "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," Bragg not-so-subtly highlighted an emerging sense among some congressional Democrats that Republican efforts to involve themselves in the case could, as Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent wrote on Twitter, "backfire on the GOP."
"This is an extreme move to use the resources of Congress to interfere with a criminal investigation at the state and local level and block an indictment," Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin told Sargent for a column published Thursday. And if an indictment is made, "we will be able to reconstruct all the facts of this case in a way that makes sense to the American public" in order to "show the justice process is working, and there is no call for extraordinary intervention by the U.S. Congress." Here, Rep. Daniel S. Goldman (D-N.Y.) told Sargent, Democrats see an opening to highlight Republicans as "using the official power of Congress to effectively coordinate with a criminal defendant." By demanding Bragg appear for a hearing, Goldman and Raskin think Republicans would instead open the door for a public opportunity for Democrats to demonstrate that Jordan and others are working to "obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation."
This, ultimately, creates something of a dilemma for congressional Republicans: do they enmesh themselves in what would likely be a fruitless effort that could further expose their own allegedly inappropriate behavior, or do they risk the ire of the current frontrunner for their party's 2024 presidential nomination — as well as the ire of his sizeable bloc of followers?
"Republicans will face heavy pressure to maximally wield committee power to shield him, which will intensify as Trump's legal travails deepen," Sargent concluded. "Republicans have no good endgames here, provided Democrats cleverly exploit the situation."
For now, however, everyone is left simply waiting, scheming, and planning for any number of eventualities, while grand jurors and prosecutors in Manhattan (and Georgia, and Washington D.C.) continue their work in secret.