Appeal Stops Deposition of Prosecutor Who Investigated Trump

April 20, 2023 by Tom Ramstack
Appeal Stops Deposition of Prosecutor Who Investigated Trump
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, gavels in a House Judiciary Committee Field Hearing, Monday, April 17, 2023, in New York. Republicans upset with Donald Trump's indictment are escalating their war on the prosecutor who charged him, trying to embarrass him on his home turf. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court late Wednesday granted a district attorney’s request to prevent Congress from calling New York prosecutors to testify about why they are prosecuting former President Donald Trump.

The appellate court decision to grant the temporary restraining order stayed a lower court’s ruling only hours earlier.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee say the prosecution is politically motivated rather than based on evidence of criminal activity.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg denies the accusation, saying the evidence shows Trump used hush money to cover up an affair with a porn star, then lied about the payments in corporate financial reports.

Trump was indicted by a grand jury last month and has pleaded guilty to 34 criminal charges.

His Republican supporters on the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for one of the New York prosecutors to testify about their motivations for pursuing the former president. Bragg petitioned a federal court to block the subpoena.

He argued that the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches of government means Congress lacks authority to review his actions. He also said criminal prosecutions fall under 10th Amendment states’ rights.

Initially, the federal court agreed Wednesday with House Judiciary Committee Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, that prosecutors could be compelled to testify.

Bragg filed an emergency appeal, prompting a federal appellate court to stay enforcement of the subpoena.

Former New York Prosecutor Mark F. Pomerantz was scheduled to give a deposition for the House Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m. on Thursday. He quit his job last year at the Manhattan district attorney’s office in protest of Bragg’s initial reluctance to prosecute Trump.

He said in his resignation letter that Trump is “guilty of numerous felony violations” for the financial records he filed with government regulators.

Pomerantz has published a book about his experience. He investigated Trump for about a year.

The House Judiciary Committee explained why it wanted to subpoena Pomerantz in a statement saying, “Pomerantz’s public statements about the investigation strongly suggest that Bragg’s prosecution of President Trump is politically motivated.”

The 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause forbids criminal prosecutions based on political preferences. Bragg is a Democrat, while Trump is a Republican.

After Bragg sued to block the subpoena, the Judiciary Committee responded in court filings by saying it was investigating whether prosecution of a former president could influence the way presidents perform their duties in office.

U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil agreed to uphold the subpoena in a ruling that said, “The subpoena was issued with a ‘valid legislative purpose’ in connection with the ‘broad’ and ‘indispensable’ congressional power to ‘conduct investigations.’”

In response to Bragg’s emergency appeal the same day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit instead said it needed more time to study the issue.

The appeals court gave Jordan and the Judiciary Committee until Friday to file briefs.

Bragg must respond by Saturday. He has argued previously the real reason the lawmakers want to subpoena Pomerantz and his associates is a reprisal for prosecuting Trump.

A hearing could be held as soon as early next week.

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