By Alayna Treene, Manu Raju and Melanie Zanona, CNN
Three key House GOP chairmen took the extraordinary step on Monday of seeking to intervene in an investigation into Donald Trump ahead of potential criminal charges the former president may face. The move underscores the lengths House Republicans are going to try to defend Trump ahead of a potential indictment, even as they acknowledge they don’t know the full scope of any potential charges.
The three chairmen — House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, House Oversight Chairman James Comer and House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil — sent a letter calling for testimony from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and criticizing his investigation into Trump as an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.” It’s the latest effort by House Republicans to try to muddy the waters ahead of the possibility that Trump could become the first former president ever to be indicted.
The three chairmen write that they intend to investigate whether Bragg and his office used federal public safety funds as part of its grand jury investigation into a hush money scheme involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
“Your decision to pursue such a politically motivated prosecution … requires congressional scrutiny about how public safety funds appropriated by Congress are implemented by local law-enforcement agencies,” the chairmen wrote.
The letter comes after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called on relevant committees to probe Bragg’s actions. McCarthy has admitted he has no knowledge of whether federal funds have actually been used for the probe, but has argued that’s why House Republicans need to investigate. The Manhattan DA’s office declined to comment Saturday on whether any federal funding has been used to support investigations into Trump.
A spokesperson for Bragg responded later Monday to the lawmakers’ letter, saying, “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.”
“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,” the spokesperson continued.
McCarthy on Monday defended the move by three of his committee chairmen to demand testimony — even before Bragg’s investigation has concluded and before he’s revealed any charges against Trump.
The speaker said Republicans are just “asking questions.”
CNN pressed McCarthy about the GOP intervening in the middle of a criminal probe.
“Let them ask questions, it gives more information,” McCarthy said. “There’s nothing wrong with asking the question.”
McCarthy later sidestepped multiple questions about whether he could support Trump’s White House bid amid the potential indictment.
“It’s a political play,” McCarthy said of the prosecutor, repeating his attack about Bragg and saying he’s ignoring more serious crimes in New York.
Bragg’s spokesperson countered that homicides in Manhattan, as well as shootings, are down so far this year under the district attorney.
Democrats have criticized the move by the House GOP chair, arguing that it amounts to “meddling” in the investigation.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that Republicans “tie themselves in knots protecting” Trump “at the at the expense of the American people, law enforcement and our legal system.”
The New York Democrat added, “Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy: hands off NYC & quit meddling in ongoing investigations.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement Monday, “The Republicans’ letter to the Manhattan District Attorney represents an astonishing and unprecedented abuse of power as they attempt to use Congressional resources to interfere in an ongoing criminal investigation at another level of government and obstruct a possible criminal indictment.”
“These Committee chairs have acted totally outside their proper powers to try to influence a pending criminal investigation at the state level,” he said.
Jordan, in an interview with CNN, defended his call for Bragg to testify about the ongoing probe into Trump, and argued that Trump didn’t commit a crime — while acknowledging he didn’t know the full scope of potential charges.
“We want Mr. Bragg to come in and testify — come in for a transcribed interview and we want the communications that took place between his office and DOJ. So, we’ve asked for all that information,” he told CNN.
But Jordan also acknowledged to CNN that he didn’t know what the possible charges are against Trump.
“We’re going with what you guys have told us,” Jordan said, referring to press reports.
Asked if he’s concerned Trump might have broken the law, Jordan said: “We don’t think President Trump broke the law at all.”
He also acknowledged not knowing of whether federal funding was used to support the New York probe.
“We’re asking,” he said.
Jordan, Comer and Steil also state they plan to probe whether potential legislative action is needed regarding “prosecutorial authority between federal and local officials.”
They also plan to consider other legislative action relating to the “authorities of special counsels and their relationships with other prosecuting entities,” claiming that the circumstances of Bragg’s investigation stem from Robert Mueller’s past special counsel investigation into whether Trump and his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.
But some in the GOP are skeptical about the need for congressional action, and said Republicans should wait to see the possible indictment first.
“I’m going to wait until I hear more facts and read the indictment itself,” Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican who represents a district President Joe Biden won, told CNN. “I have faith in our legal system. If these charges are political bogus stuff, and they may be, it will become clear enough soon.”
The letter comes two days after Trump announced he expects to be arrested in connection with that investigation. And it also coincides with the first full day of the House GOP’s annual policy retreat in Florida, where Republicans had hoped to focus on their legislative agenda but instead find themselves on defense over Trump.
The three chairmen also attack Bragg’s case as politically motivated, describing the basis of the investigation as “tenuous and untested.” They also take aim at Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who has been a central figure in the grand jury investigation, writing that he has a “credibility problem.”
Jordan, Comer and Steil request Bragg turn over all documents and communications between the New York County District Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department relating to their investigation of Trump as well as materials sent or received by lawyers Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, who formerly helped lead the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Trump’s business practices.
They also requested Bragg turn over all documents and communications relating to his office’s receipt and use of federal funds.
The chairmen requested Bragg schedule a transcribed interview with their committees and turn over the requested materials by March 23.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed