On Sunday morning’s “State of the Union” on CNN, host Jake Tapper squared off with Rep. James Comer (R-KY), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, questioning the committee’s challenge to New York DA Alvin Bragg’s purported prosecution of Donald Trump.
Despite Bragg’s pushback on the congressional inquiry, the committee appears set on continuing with their oversight of the DA’s efforts to prosecute the former president. On Saturday, Comer, along with House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), and House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil (R-WI), directed an eight-page letter to Bragg declaring Bragg’s arguments against the inquiry “conclusory and unconvincing,” asserting their own jurisdiction over the matter, and deeming his offer to provide information regarding his office’s use of federal funds insufficient.
The letter from the chairmen of the House Judiciary, Oversight and Administration committees to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg pushed back on his case against appearing for a transcribed interview with their panels and argued that they now feel compelled to consider whether Congress should take legislative action on three separate issues “to protect former and/or current Presidents from politically motivated prosecutions by state and local officials.”
The letter – written by Republicans Jim Jordan, James Comer and Bryan Steil – comes after they initially called on Bragg earlier this week to testify before their committees and criticized his investigation into Trump as an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.”
“Are you arguing that people who commit business crimes are not committing crimes?”
CNN’s @jaketapper presses Rep. James Comer (R-KY) on Republicans investigating the Manhattan district attorney over the hush money probe into former President Donald Trump. @CNNSotu #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/aR7HrdoZHh
— CNN (@CNN) March 26, 2023
During the interview, Tapper pressed Comer, asking if Comer is taking the position that “business crimes” aren’t crimes, while Comer repeatedly emphasized the issue here is a local prosecutor attempting to investigate and prosecute what amounts to a federal crime (federal election violation) for seemingly political purposes. From their exchange:
Tapper: “You just wrote a new letter to Manhattan DA Bragg, defending your decision to investigate his office, saying that you’re considering taking legislative action to prevent presidents from ‘politically motivated prosecutions.’ As of right now, of course, Trump has not been charged with anything. What do you say to Bragg, who says you’re trying to stop a charge from happening even before you know of any evidence?”
Comer: “Well, what the DA’s trying to say is what you just quoted — he said, ‘Stay out of local investigations.’ The problem with that is: This is not a local investigation. This is a federal investigation. He’s investigating a presidential candidate — not to mention, former president of the United States — for a federal election crime. That has no business being litigated in a local district attorney’s office. And when he says he’s not going to cooperate with Congress, unfortunately for Mr. Bragg, he doesn’t have the luxury of determining whether or not he can comply with congressional requests because he crossed over two levels of government, from the local level to the federal level, to try to prosecute something that clearly, if there was a reason for prosecution, it should be done by the Department of Justice on the federal level.”
Tapper: “Well, he’s investigating — as I understand it — potential violations of state crimes.”
Comer: “Even at that — look, let’s just be honest here: This is about politics. This is a presidential candidate. When you look at what we believe the role of the Manhattan DA should be — is to fight crime. I mean, that’s one of the biggest issues in New York. We saw that in the midterm elections last November. Voters overwhelmingly rejected many Democrat candidates because of the crime issue. We have a crime crisis in many of our cities — we’re trying to do something about that in the House of Representatives. And one of the reasons we believe we have high crime rates in certain parts of America is because we have prosecutors that are soft on crime. And we believe that our tax dollars — and that’s where I come in with the House Oversight Committee — we believe that tax dollars would be better spent prosecuting local criminals. That’s what a DA is supposed to do.”
Tapper: “Are you arguing that people who commit business crimes are not committing crimes?”
Comer: “Look — is this a business crime? We’re talking about a federal election crime here, Jake. This is a federal election crime. The manhattan DA does not write federal election law…Congress writes federal election law.”
Tapper: “My understanding is that he’s being investigated for falsifying business records. It’s…there was a related prosecution — Michael Cohen went to prison — that was a federal investigation from the U.S. attorney during the Trump years, but that U.S. Attorney, Mr. Berman, prosecuted — and Mr. Khuzami — prosecuted Michael Cohen. He went to prison for that, as well as related crimes. I don’t remember hearing anything from you during that period, and I guess he wasn’t a candidate, but he had been working for Donald Trump.”
Comer: “That was a U.S. Attorney that prosecuted — we’re talking about a local attorney.”
The interview continued but it’s worth noting that Tapper undercut his whole premise in that last question. He’s referring back to the prosecution of Donald Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, for actions that appear to be the underlying basis of Bragg’s would-be prosecution of Trump. But as he himself acknowledges, that prosecution was handled by a U.S. Attorney, not a local DA. Moreover, as Tapper also acknowledges, Cohen was not a presidential candidate. Left out of that portion of the discussion is the fact that Cohen was prosecuted in 2018 — within the statute of limitations — and for federal crimes (tax evasion, federal election law violations).
Why Tapper believes the prosecution of Cohen by federal prosecutors five years ago buttresses an argument for a local DA’s prosecution of a Trump (now a presidential candidate) in 2023 is puzzling, to say the least.
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