Manhattan prosecutors on Thursday said Donald Trump misled people to expect he would be arrested this week and prompted fellow Republicans in Congress to interfere with a probe under way into his hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
On Saturday, the former president said he would be arrested on Tuesday in the probe by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
On Monday, three Republican committee chairmen in the U.S. House of Representatives went on the offensive against District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, accusing him of abusing prosecutorial authority and seeking communications, documents and testimony from him.
As of Wednesday, a grand jury hearing evidence in the Stormy Daniels case had yet to issue an indictment, and on Thursday Mr. Bragg’s office sent the committee chairmen a letter seen by Reuters.
The letter said the chairmen’s accusations “only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene.”
It confirmed that Mr. Bragg’s office was “investigating allegations that Donald Trump engaged in violations of New York State penal law.”
If indicted, Mr. Trump would be the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges. He served as president from 2017 to 2021 and has mounted a third campaign for the White House while facing legal woes on several fronts.
Mr. Trump has said he will continue campaigning for president if charged with a crime.
The response on Thursday from Mr. Bragg’s office said the three Republican House committee chairmen had sought non-public information about a pending criminal investigation, which is confidential under state law.
“The letter’s requests are an unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty,” said the letter signed by the district attorney’s general counsel, Leslie Dubeck. “Congress cannot have any legitimate legislative task relating to the oversight of local prosecutors enforcing state law.”
The grand jury, made up of U.S. citizens residing in Manhattan, convened in January. Its proceedings are not public and prosecutors are barred from discussing them. It was not expected to meet again until next week at the earliest after media reports said it would not take up the case on Thursday.
Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal fixer and lawyer, has said he made the payment to Ms. Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election at Mr. Trump’s direction.
Ms. Daniels, a well-known adult film actress and director whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she received the money in exchange for keeping silent about a sexual encounter she had with Mr. Trump in 2006. Mr. Trump has denied he ever had an affair with Ms. Daniels, and has called the payment a “simple private transaction.” He has said he did not commit a crime and has called the investigation politically motivated.
In Photos: Donald Trump heads to New York amid tight security
David Shribman: Trump's arraignment is a stress test for U.S. politics
Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance law violations and other crimes related to the payment and received a prison sentence. Last week he testified before the grand jury, which is believed generally to meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Elsewhere, a federal appeals court in a sealed order Wednesday directed a lawyer for Mr. Trump to turn over to prosecutors documents in the investigation into the former president’s retention of classified records at his Florida estate.
The ruling is a significant win for the Justice Department, which has focused for months not only on the hoarding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago but also on why Mr. Trump and his representatives resisted demands to return them to the government. It suggests the court has sided with prosecutors who have argued behind closed doors that Mr. Trump was using his legal representation to further a crime.
The order was reflected in a brief online notice by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is sealed, and none of the parties in the dispute is mentioned by name.
But the details appear to correspond with a secret fight before a lower court judge over whether Trump lawyer M. Evan Corcoran could be forced to provide documents or give grand-jury testimony in the Justice Department special-counsel probe into whether Mr. Trump mishandled top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago.
Mr. Corcoran is regarded as relevant to the investigation in part because last year he drafted a statement to the Justice Department asserting that a “diligent search” for classified documents had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago in response to a subpoena. That claim proved untrue as FBI agents weeks later searched the home with a warrant and found roughly 100 additional documents with classified markings.
With files from The Associated Press