NEW YORK (AP) — Republicans upset with Donald Trump’s indictment are escalating their war on the prosecutor who charged him, trying to embarrass Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on his home turf partly by falsely portraying New York City as a place overrun by crime.
The House Judiciary Committee, led by Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, is holding a field hearing Monday near Bragg’s offices to examine the Democrat’s “pro-crime, anti-victim” policies. One committee member, Arizona Republican Andy Biggs, tweeted that Bragg has “turned NYC into a wasteland,” and that “lawlessness is completely out of control.”
New York City has “lost its way when it comes to fighting crime and upholding the law,” Jordan said. “Here in Manhattan, the scales of justice are weighed down by politics.”
Democrats say the hearing is a partisan stunt aimed at amplifying conservative anger at Bragg, Manhattan’s first Black district attorney.
New York City officials urged Jordan to cancel the hearing. C-SPAN declined to air it on TV.
“It is really troubling that American taxpayers’ dollars are being used to come here on this junket to do an examination of the safest big city in America instead of focusing on the real over-proliferation of guns that we have witnessed,” said Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat and former police captain.
Adams called the hearing an “in-kind donation” to the Trump campaign.
Monday’s hearing is the latest salvo in Jordan’s weekslong effort to use his congressional powers to defend Trump from what he says is a politically motivated prosecution.
Jordan has sent letters to Bragg demanding testimony and documents, claiming Bragg’s office is subject to congressional scrutiny because it gets federal grants. He subpoenaed a former prosecutor, Mark Pomerantz, who previously oversaw the Trump investigation. Bragg then sued Jordan, calling the subpoena a “transparent campaign to intimidate” him.
Pomerantz said in court papers Monday that the subpoena leaves him in an “impossible position” and, if enforced, will require him to violate his ethical obligations or risk being held in contempt of Congress if he refuses. A federal judge scheduled an initial hearing for Wednesday.
Attacking New York City and its mostly Democratic leaders over crime is an old trick for politicians who represent rural and suburban districts, and the punch can still land with some audiences.
But in reality, the city’s violent crime rate remains substantially below the U.S. average.
In 2022, Bragg’s first year in office, there were 78 homicides in Manhattan, a borough of 1.6 million people. That was a drop of 15 percent from the year before. Palm Beach County, Florida, where Trump is one of about 1.5 million residents, had 96 killings.
“People hear New York and they think crime, and that’s because they’ve been trained to think that way,” said Dr. Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research & Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. “It’s not real. It’s just the stories that people tell.”
“If you’re living in some predominantly small, white county in Iowa, you hear New York and you just imagine all the scary movies and TV shows you’ve seen,” Butts said. “I think that’s what Congress is playing off of.”
For Bragg, scrutiny from Republicans — and even some Democrats — is nothing new.
A Harvard-educated former federal prosecutor, chief deputy state attorney general and civil rights lawyer, Bragg won an eight-way Democratic party primary and then soared to victory with 83% of the general election vote.
Soon after taking office, Bragg authored an internal memo announcing that, among other things, his office would not prosecute certain low-level misdemeanors.
That set up some early clashes with NYPD leadership, and some Republicans outside the city quickly made Bragg a poster child for Democratic permissiveness.
Republican Lee Zeldin, then representing eastern Long Island in Congress, made Bragg a focal point of his losing campaign for governor, repeatedly promising to remove the independently elected prosecutor from office. The rhetoric resonated in the suburbs, helping Republicans defeat Democrats in a number of key New York seats.
New York, in fact, wasn’t immune from the nationwide spike in crime that happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and most categories remain above 2019 levels. Burglaries, car thefts and assaults rose in Manhattan during Bragg’s first year before falling again this year.
The House Judiciary Committee didn’t invite Bragg to testify, nor was anyone from his office expected to participate. Instead, the committee heard from crime victims, the head of the city’s detectives union, the head of an anti-gun violence group and a crime policy expert who — under questioning by Democrats — ticked off a long list of cities and states with higher violent crime rates than New York and Manhattan.
Jose Alba, a former convenience store clerk, testified about his arrest after stabbing an attacker to death in his shop. Bragg dropped the charges but critics said he should have done so sooner. Madeline Brame blamed Bragg for seeking long prison sentences only for two of four people involved in her son’s killing. Jennifer Harrison — whose boyfriend was killed in New Jersey in 2005, outside Bragg’s jurisdiction and long before he took office — spoke as a victim advocate and Bragg critic.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it “a circus.”
New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said: “Jim Jordan engages in a lot of political theater in Washington, but he should know better than to take his tired act to Broadway. New Yorkers see through this transparent attempt to defend Donald Trump at all costs while ignoring the real public safety needs of our community.”
Associated Press reporters David B. Caruso and Karen Matthews in New York and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak and send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/.
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