April 18, 2024

House Republicans and the Manhattan district attorney’s office reached an agreement on Friday to end a legal dispute over a House judicial committee inquiry into former US president Donald Trump’s historic indictment.

Under the agreement, committee members will be able to question former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz under oath next month in Washington, resolving a lawsuit in which District Attorney Alvin Bragg had sought to block Pomerantz from testing.

Among the committee’s concessions, Pomerantz will be accompanied by a lawyer from Bragg’s office, which is not typically allowed in congressional deposits.

Bragg’s office and the judicial committee reached the agreement after the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a stay on Thursday that temporarily halted enforcement of a House subpoena that had called for Pomerantz to testify.

The appeals court had been scheduled to hear oral arguments in the dispute on Tuesday.

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Bragg’s office said the agreement, delaying Pomerantz’s testimony until May 12, preserves the district attorney’s “privileges and interests” in his ongoing Trump prosecution.

“Our successful stay of this subpoena blocked the immediate deposition and afforded us the time necessary to co-ordinate with the House judicial committee on an agreement that protects the district attorney’s privileges and interests,” Bragg’s office said in a statement.

“We are pleased with this resolution, which ensures any questioning of our former employee will take place in the presence of our general counsel on a reasonable, agreed-upon time frame. We are gratified that the Second Circuit’s ruling provided us with the opportunity to successfully resolved this dispute.”

Bragg had appealed to the Second Circuit after a lower-court judge ruled on Wednesday that there was no legal basis to block the judicial committee’s subpoena and that Pomerantz’s deposition must go forward as scheduled.

A person crosses their arms while listening at a news conference.
Mark Pomerantz was shown at a news conference in New York City in March 2008. Pomerantz once oversaw the years-long Trump investigation but left the job after clashing with Bragg over the direction of the case. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Under the agreement, Bragg withdrew his appeal.

Russell Dye, a spokesperson for committee chair Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, said in a statement, “Mr. Pomerantz’s deposit will go forward on May 12, and we look forward to his appearance.”

Pomerantz once oversaw the years-long Trump investigation but left the job after clashing with Bragg over the direction of the case. He recently wrote a book about his work pursuing Trump and discussed the investigation in interviews on 60 Minutes and other shows.

‘Campaign to intimidate and attack’

Bragg, a Democrat, sued Jordan and the judiciary committee last week seeking to block the subpoena. His lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, argued that seeking Pomerantz’s testimony was part of a “transparent campaign to intimidate and attack” Bragg and that Congress was “invading a state” to investigate a local prosecutor when it had no authority to do so.

Boutrous said House Republicans’ interest in Bragg amounted to Congress “jumping in and haranguing the DA while the prosecution is ongoing.”

Trump was indicted last month on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush-money payments made during the 2016 election campaign to bury allegations of extramarital sexual encounters. He has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

A person gestures while speaking.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio is seen on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Jordan sent letters seeking interviews with Bragg and documents before subpoenaing Pomerantz. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/The Associated Press)

The judicial committee started scrutinizing Bragg’s investigation of the former president in the weeks that preceded his indictment. Jordan sent letters seeking interviews with Bragg and documents before subpoenaing Pomerantz. US District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, a Trump appointee, said in her ruling on Wednesday that she would handle any legal fights that may arise from other subpoenas in the committee’s investigation of Bragg.

A committee lawyer, Matthew Berry, said at that hearing that Congress has legitimate legislative reasons for wanting to question Pomerantz and examine Bragg’s prosecution of Trump, citing the office’s use of $5,000 in federal funds to pay for Trump-related investigations.

Congress is also considering legislation, offered by Republicans in the wake of Trump’s indictment, to change how criminal cases against former presidents unfold, Berry said. One bill would prohibit prosecutors from using federal funds to investigate presidents, and another would require any criminal cases involving a former president to be resolved in federal court instead of at the state level.

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House Republicans, Berry said, want to protect the sovereignty and autonomy of the presidency, envisioning a scenario where the commander-in-chief could feel obligated to make certain decisions to avoid having local prosecutors in politically unfavorable jurisdictions charge them with crimes after they leave office.

For those reasons, Berry argued, Congress is immune from judicial intervention, citing the speech and debating clauses of the US Constitution.

Pomerantz could refuse to answer certain questions, citing legal privileges and ethical obligations, and Jordan would rule on those assertions on a case-by-case basis, Berry said, but he shouldn’t be exempt from showing up. If Jordan were to overrule Pomerantz and he still refused to answer, he could then face a criminal referral to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress, but that wouldn’t happen immediately, Berry said.

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