Since his indictment in Manhattan two weeks ago, Donald Trump and his lawyers have been preparing for what will be a long court battle. But Trump is already fighting an equally aggressive battle in another court: The court of public opinion. His defense team here aren’t the lawyers for his criminal case, but rather his Republican cheerleaders in Congress, led by Jim Jordan and the House Judiciary Committee. But Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is fighting back on this front as well, as evidenced by the lawsuit he filed against Jordan and the Judiciary Committee, one that shows that Jordan’s subcommittee on the “weaponization of the federal government” is aptly named – but not for the reasons Jordan intended.
Let’s first start with how we got here. Basically, Jordan kicked into high gear after Trump faked an impending arrest a few weeks ago. The arrest didn’t happen as Trump claimed, but it gave Jordan the excuse he needed to mobilize his committee to issue a letter to Bragg’s office, demanding his testimony and various types of information, including whether the DA office’s used federal funds in its investigation and prosecution of Trump. Jordan followed up that letter with a subpoena to Mark Pomerantz, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney, who resigned in early 2022 in protest that Bragg’s office was not pursuing a separate case against Trump which had begun under Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance. (Pomerantz later wrote a book detailing why he believed the case against Trump was strong enough to pursue at that time.) Bragg’s lawsuit alleges that Jordan and his committee are acting outside the scope of their constitutional authority in issuing the subpoena to Pomerantz and that the committee’s requests for information from the DA’s office would violate grand jury secrecy and various types of privileged communications.
Now, it is true that Congress has broad oversight authority. Although this power is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, it has been established by the courts that oversight is an implied Article I power, necessary for Congress to carry out its legislative functions. This point was repeatedly litigated during the Trump administration, particularly in the legal battle over whether various congressional committees could obtain Trump’s financial records, including his tax returns. The Supreme Court held that they could, noting in Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP that while the interests of the executive branch and Congress must be weighed against one another, “[w]ithout information, Congress would be shooting in the dark, unable to legislate ‘wisely or effectively.’”