ORLANDO, Fla. — House Republicans are taking aim at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) as former President Trump teases his own imminent arrest stemming from Bragg’s investigation into hush-money payments ahead of the 2016 election.
Republicans are backing up Trump’s outrage about a “witch hunt” — a familiar talking point since he ascended to the presidency — while urging supporters to remain peaceful.
At the same time, they’ve turned their attention to Bragg, seeking to paint him as a rogue prosecutor who allowed crime in the city to skyrocket while pursuing a “zombie” case against Trump.
Following a promise from Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to investigate whether any federal funds have been spent in the probe, three House GOP committee chairs requested testimony from Bragg.
“Your actions will erode confidence in the evenhanded application of justice and unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), and House Administration Committee Chair Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) wrote in a letter to Bragg on Monday.
Years of Trump scandals have repeatedly put Republicans in a tight spot. But Bragg is a convenient target for the House GOP, which gained seats in New York in 2022 as the party heavily messaged against Democratic policies on crime. Republicans repeatedly pointed to charges being downgraded under Bragg’s tenure.
“We’ve watched crime in New York where people are afraid to walk the streets,” McCarthy said at a press conference kicking off the House GOP’s annual issues retreat in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday. “One of the reasons we’ve 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?”
Bragg’s office pushed back on Republicans and Trump on Monday.
“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 said in a statement. “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.”
Asked about whether it was appropriate for Republicans to seek information and testimony of an ongoing investigation, McCarthy he is supportive of committees being able to ask questions at any given time.
Republicans are also seeking to tie Bragg to the billionaire George Soros, a frequent GOP boogeyman and major funder of Democratic causes.
“This is a D.A. that got more than a million dollars from Soros,” McCarthy said.
Soros has supported the election of progressive district attorneys across the country in recent years, writing last year in The Wall Street Journal that he hopes “reform-minded prosecutors” will help curb injustices in the criminal system. The Soros-connected PAC Color Of Change supported Bragg in his 2021 campaign, pledging to spend more than a million dollars in independent expenditures to help his election.
“’I’m hoping that that rogue, left-wing radical prosecutor funded by Soros takes a step back and realizes the damage that it does to the country, and it puts country over his partisan and his political ambitions, because it is clearly a political stunt and not a legal move,” said Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.).
“We were used to seeing that in places you know, third-world countries. but that’s something that doesn’t happen in this one,” Díaz-Balart added.
Bragg has not yet officially made any decision on charging Trump with a crime over his role in directing a $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election as she prepared to go public with a story about her affair with Trump. The case is also reportedly looking at a payment of $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal earlier in the year.
Federal prosecutors previously declined to pursue criminal charges against then-President Trump over the hush money but Bragg renewed the investigation upon taking office in 2021. Any charges from the New York district attorney would likely revolve around a state law relating to falsifying business records.
Republicans also echoed Trump’s argument that New York’s statute of limitations — five years for most felonies or two years for misdemeanors — complicates any charges. But that timeline can be extended if a defendant has lived out of state.
“He’s going to be indicting the former president on something that other prosecutors have been looking at for years, something that happened apparently back in 2016, seven years ago. So the statute of limitations is over,” said Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.).
Not all Republicans thought Trump was completely clear of wrongdoing, though.
“Look, at the end of the day, you cannot walk away from the fact that the former President clearly paid a porn star off to hush up right before an election. That occurred,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who has preemptively endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for president, said on conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s radio show on Monday.
But Roy also slammed “politicization of the justice system,” calling Bragg’s targeting of Trump “banana republic stuff.”
Even as they circle the wagons around Trump, Republicans are being cautious and pushing back on Trump’s call for protests.
“I don’t think people should protest this,” McCarthy said, adding “we want calmness out there,” and no “violence or harm.”
In a Truth Social post on Saturday, Trump said that he could be arrested on Tuesday in connection with the Manhattan district attorney investigation and told supporters to “Protest, take our nation back!”
That sparked worries about potential violence. Trump’s call for his supporters to protest the 2020 election results that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack still hang over the conference.
“Look, peaceful protests are right of the American people. And so I support peaceful protests,” said Rep. Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas).
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), has also said that “we don’t need to protest” Trump’s potential arrest.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling … for protests. Americans have the right to assemble and the right to protest,” Greene said, adding that Trump “doesn’t have to say peaceful for it to mean peaceful. Of course, he means peaceful.”
Greene said that she would not personally be out protesting any arrest, but plans to support Trump at an upcoming Texas rally — though noted people have “the right to choose” how to respond.
“I don’t need to protest,” Greene said. “I know what I’m going to do with the 2024 election. I’m going to vote every single Democrat out of office that I possibly can, and I’m going to spend all of my energy fundraising and fighting to end this extreme corruption in America. That’s what I think we should do.”
—Updated at 7:13 p.m.