The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, conducted a field hearing in New York City on April 17th on “Victims of Violent Crime in Manhattan.” They heard testimony from violent crime victims’ family members and from victim advocates about the tragic effects of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s soft-on-crime policies.
The committee has a legislative interest in seeing first-hand how effectively federal funding provided to support New York City’s budget for its district attorneys is being used. Moreover, the rising crime wave in New York and other large cities is a national problem. The committee intends to conduct similar field hearings in other major cities across the country.
Nevertheless, Democrat members of the House Judiciary Committee, speaking in D.A. Bragg’s defense, dismissed the hearing as a charade to get back at Mr. Bragg for indicting former President Donald Trump on felony charges. They called the witnesses political props.
Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, shamefully accused his Republican colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee of behaving like “jackbooted thugs.”
The House Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, Democrat Jerrold Nadler, whose district straddles Midtown and the Upper East Side and Upper West Side portions of Manhattan, called the committee hearing an “outrageous abuse of power.” He added that “It is shameful that the Republicans of this committee would use the pretext of violent crime as an excuse to play tourist in New York and bully the district attorney.”
Nadler’s outrageous indifference to the legitimate fears of New Yorkers caused by more rampant crime in their city is an abuse of his office and a dereliction of duty to his constituents.
D.A. Bragg could have attended the committee hearing. He chose not to. Instead, Mr. Bragg’s spokesperson issued a statement calling the hearing “a political stunt.”
The statement claimed that most major crimes in New York City, including murders, have declined during D.A. Bragg’s tenure that began on January 1, 2022, focusing on the first quarter of 2023 compared to a year ago. But looking at D.A. Bragg’s borough of Manhattan specifically, murders rose 53.8 percent (from 13 to 20) in Manhattan North through the week just preceding the committee hearing compared to the same period in 2022. Other major crimes did decline but by lesser percentages than the steep rise in the murder rate. For example, complaints for felony assaults declined by only 3 percent, from 811 to 787. The record in Manhattan South showed a decline from two murders to one during the same comparison period but also showed an 88.2 percent rise in felony assault complaints from 85 to 160.
The New York Police Department regularly arrests dangerous criminals, only to have the Manhattan District Attorney downgrade 52% of felony cases in his office to misdemeanors, allowing too many of these criminals back on the streets.
“Imagine that,” Rep. Jordan said. “You leave criminals on the street, you get more crime.”
The purpose of the House Judiciary Committee’s field hearing in Manhattan was to go beyond mere statistics and learn directly from people who have been hurt badly by District Attorney Bragg’s soft-on-crime policies.
The mother of a murdered Army vet and victims’ advocate, Madeline Brame, testified how D.A. Bragg mishandled the case against the alleged killers of her son Hason Correa, who was murdered in 2018 outside a Harlem apartment building.
Two of the defendants avoided murder indictments even though they were seen “clearly on video participating in the brutal, savage slaughter of my son,” Ms. Brame told the committee. One has already been released from jail after serving only 14 months. She is “currently walking the streets of Harlem like she didn’t just participate in the brutal slaughter of another human being — home with her family, home with her children,” Ms. Brame added. “If that’s not a threat to public safety, I don’t know what is.”
Shortly after Ms. Brame told her story to the committee, it was the turn of the father of a Jewish hate crime victim, who was brutally attacked in Times Square in 2021, to speak. The father, Barry Borgen, complained that D.A. Bragg offered one of the assailants, who allegedly called his son a “dirty Jew,” a sweetheart plea deal of just six months in prison. Mr. Borgen said that he was “disappointed” with his fellow “Jewish New Yorker” Rep. Nadler for helping to enable D.A. Bragg “to just do whatever he wants to do.”
Rep. Nadler had little to say about Bragg’s kid glove treatment of an anti-Semite who participated in the vicious assault on Mr. Borgen’s son. However, Rep. Nadler had no problem accusing Republicans of engaging in “antisemitic tropes” for telling the truth that District Attorney Bragg received funding indirectly from left-wing billionaire George Soros through an organization to which Soros contributed. This PAC organization known as Color of Change endorsed Bragg in his Manhattan District Attorney campaign on May 8, 2021, pledging to spend $1 million in support of the campaign. Less than a week later, Mr. Soros just happened to donate $1 million to that very same PAC.
An attorney spoke at the House Judiciary Committee field hearing on behalf of the bodega worker who spent nearly a week jailed at Rikers Island after Mr. Bragg initially charged him with murder for fatally stabbing a man in self-defense. The charge against Jose Alba was dropped only after the intense backlash following Bragg’s reckless rush to judgment.
“I just want to tell the public about the horrible experience I had to go through because of crime in this city,” the lawyer said, quoting a statement from Mr. Alba. “Even though the charges were ultimately dropped, they should not have been brought against me to begin with. I am now traumatized from the incident.”
D.A. Bragg’s highest priority since taking office has not been to prosecute dangerous criminals to the fullest extent of the law. Quite the opposite. He came into office with plans to “reform” the justice system by cutting down on the criminal cases that his office would prosecute and reducing many felonies to misdemeanors. As a result, innocent people do not feel safe even in areas of Manhattan that had not experienced the kind of random crime in the past which occurs all too often today.
But D.A. Bragg had one priority target in mind whom he wanted so badly to prosecute – former President Donald Trump. He said shortly after winning the race for Manhattan District Attorney that he planned to give his personal attention to probing Donald Trump’s business practices. And that is what he did, wasting federal and local taxpayers’ money to manufacture bogus felony charges against Mr. Trump.
D.A. Bragg jerry-rigged 34 felony counts stemming from alleged falsified bookkeeping entries recorded in Mr. Trump’s privately owned company’s ledgers having to do with reimbursements for hush money his then-lawyer Michael Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels. These entries injured no innocent individuals. There is no there there.
Mr. Bragg morphed what was at most a misdemeanor for which the statute of limitations had already run into meritless felony charges involving federal and state election campaign laws in connection with Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The Department of Justice and Federal Election Commission had previously examined whether there were possible violations of any federal campaign law worth pursuing and decided that there was an insufficient basis to proceed against Mr. Trump. In any event, violations of federal campaign laws are outside of the jurisdiction of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Moreover, New York State election laws do not apply to federal campaigns.
In addition to the House Judiciary Committee’s Manhattan hearing on Mr. Bragg’s shoddy record of prosecutions against dangerous criminals, the Judiciary Committee is investigating Bragg’s lawfare vendetta against Mr. Trump.
D.A. Bragg resents the fact that Rep. Jim Jordan’s committee is looking over his shoulder. The Manhattan District Attorney accuses Rep. Jordan and other House Republicans of interfering with a local lawsuit that he claims is none of Congress’s business. But that is where D.A. Bragg is wrong.
D.A. Bragg chose to bring his lawsuit against a former president of the United States, a lawsuit which is premised in part on an alleged violation of federal election campaign law. Moreover, the federal Secret Service must expend additional resources when its officers accompany the former president to and from the court in New York where he must appear in person as ordered by the presiding judge.
D.A. Bragg’s prosecution of Mr. Trump touches on various federal legislative interests. One of these interests pertains to whether federal election campaign law and rules of the Federal Election Commission implicated by Bragg’s prosecution need some adjustments.
Considering the use of federal funds by D.A. Bragg’s office to investigate Mr. Trump, perhaps legislation is needed to prohibit a local prosecutor’s use of federal funds for such purposes against a former U.S. president in the future. Congress also has an interest in how funding that it has appropriated for Secret Service protection of former presidents is being used. This would include the additional wasteful spending required to pay for accompanying Mr. Trump to and from New York for his required Manhattan court appearances.
Moreover, local prosecutors like Mr. Bragg could seek indictments against former presidents for a range of motives, which opens a pandora’s box. One way to deter frivolous prosecutions brought for political reasons is for Congress to consider enacting legislation requiring the removal of cases even tangentially involving a former president’s alleged violation of federal law from state to federal court.
In short, Congress has several legitimate legislative purposes for looking into the circumstances leading up to the indictment of Mr. Trump. The indictment cries out for changes in federal law to curb local prosecutors’ abuse of power by suing a former U.S. president on flimsy grounds.
D.A. Bragg does not like being the subject of an investigation. Thus, on April 11th, Mr. Bragg filed a lawsuit against Jim Jordan, the House Judiciary Committee, and former New York County Special Assistant District Attorney Mark Pomerantz to block a subpoena requiring Mr. Pomerantz to testify in a closed session. The complaint charged that Rep. Jordan and the committee were “participating in a campaign of intimidation, retaliation, and obstruction.”
Mr. Bragg is once again trying to weaponize the judiciary, this time to aid him in obstructing a congressional committee from exercising its constitutional legislative authority. There would be no interference in the day-to-day prosecution of the case against Mr. Trump since Mr. Pomerantz left Bragg’s office months before the indictment.
A federal judge on April 19th rejected D.A. Bragg’s request for a temporary restraining order and injunction that would have blocked the House Judiciary Committee subpoena for Mr. Pomerantz to testify, finding that the subpoena had a valid legislative purpose.
Hopefully, District Attorney Bragg will suffer more such defeats for abusing his office for crass political purposes instead of concentrating on what he is supposed to do – prosecute crimes aggressively that harm innocent people within his jurisdiction of Manhattan.