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The standoff between Jim Jordan and Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, explained

House Republicans are going after the DA’s work on Trump’s indictment. Bragg is fighting back.

Alvin Bragg in front of an American flag.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference following the arraignment of former President Donald Trump in New York City on April 4, 2023.
Jeenah Moon/Washington Post via Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

On Monday, House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) once again attacked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, this time on his home turf in New York City.

Rep. Jordan has been criticizing Bragg’s leadership for weeks, as the DA pursues charges against former President Donald Trump related to falsifying business records. This week, the lawmaker continued that onslaught by holding a field hearing in New York City about crime in the city and alleging that Bragg wasn’t doing enough to curb it. The goal, essentially, was to make Bragg seem to be ineffective at best, and incompetent at worst.

The hearing featured multiple witnesses Republicans brought in to discuss their experiences with crime in New York, including a person who experienced an antisemitic attack in Times Square and a bodega owner who was charged with murder following his stabbing of an attacker.

Democrats pushed back on the hearing, arguing that the panel was a “political stunt.” A Bragg spokesperson noted that New York City was the “safest big city in America” and cited data that found that shootings and homicides had declined in the city in the first quarter of the year. Jordan’s hearing comes as his standoff with Bragg has intensified, and as Republicans have sought new ways to defend Trump from any perceptions that the former president has done anything wrong.

Bragg has hit back at the GOP, most notably by filing a lawsuit against Jordan in an effort to block Republicans’ demands that witnesses from Bragg’s office testify before Congress. The suit also hopes to negate the GOP’s efforts to obtain documents related to Trump’s indictment. Bragg also argues in the lawsuit that federal lawmakers shouldn’t be interfering in a local criminal case, and is specifically seeking to block the testimony of former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz, who Jordan has subpoenaed.

Jordan responded to that suit by arguing “the prospect of a politically motivated prosecution of a former President could give rise to issues of substantial federal concern” and that Congress has a right to investigate such efforts in order to consider legislative responses.

A judge is scheduled to make a decision on the lawsuit on Wednesday. That move could determine to what degree Republicans can continue to use their congressional investigations to distract the public from the 34 counts of falsifying business records that Trump’s been indicted on.

House Republicans are targeting Bragg as they try to defend Trump

House Republicans’ attacks on Bragg go beyond his spat with Jordan. GOP lawmakers from the speaker to rank-and-file members have aggressively gone after the Manhattan DA as they’ve mounted a vocal defense of Trump.

“Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy previously said in a tweet. “The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”

Another attack that Republicans have used is pointing out that Bragg used federal funds to conduct his investigation. Bragg’s office has responded by noting that it’s used about $5,000 in federal dollars in order to conduct investigations into Trump and his companies, including litigation over access to his tax returns. These funds come from federal forfeiture funds the DA’s office helped collect, and not federal grant programs, Bragg’s office said.

Jordan’s investigation and demands for testimony and documents are a major part of the push to continue going after Bragg. By calling Bragg’s motivations and the legitimacy of his case into question, Republicans hope to defuse — or at least distract from — the charges against Trump. In doing so, they’re also showing their supporters how hard they’re advocating for the former president, who maintains a strong grip on the GOP base, whether or not they actually obtain the testimony and documents they’ve requested.

As Kaleigh Rogers has written for FiveThirtyEight, House Republicans’ demands for information in an active criminal investigation are unprecedented, and convincing a court to enforce a subpoena regarding an active criminal case is poised to be tough.

Still, the House GOP has made it clear it plans to try. The crime hearing on Monday was only the latest expansion of those actions.

Update, April 17, 4:40 pm ET: This story was originally published on April 12 and has been updated to include a hearing on crime held this week.

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