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Thursday, June 8, 2023

GOP steps up its racist attacks on New York DA Alvin Bragg

Critics say House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is exploiting racism to stoke the fires of right-wing extremists and white supremacists in Congress to use powers he claims he has but does not to do anything to support Donald Trump.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Congressional Republicans, many of whom still support the lie that their criminally-indicted and disgraced former president was “fraudulently” denied a reelection win in a race he lost, have stepped up their war against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

House Judiciary Committee, chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican from Ohio, is holding a photo op field hearing Monday near the offices of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Jordon, legal experts say, is misusing his position to pursue Bragg in ways not legally allowed by Congressional rules or the law. He and other Republicans are escalating their war on the prosecutor who charged him, trying to embarrass him on his home turf partly by falsely portraying New York City as a place overrun by crime.

The committee’s GOP majority claims the “field trip” is an examination of the Democrat’s “pro-crime, anti-victim” policies. Committee member, Rep. Andy Biggs, a racist Arizona Republican, claims Bragg has “turned NYC into a wasteland,” and that “lawlessness is completely out of control.”

Democrats call the hearing nothing more than a racist, political partisan stunt stoking conservative anger at Bragg, Manhattan’s first Black district attorney.

New York City officials have urged Jordan to cancel the hearing. C-SPAN, noting that the hearing is political and not a normal Congressional hearing, has declined to air it on TV.

“This is simply an in-kind donation or contribution to the Trump campaign,” Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat and former police captain said on CNN Friday. “This is really a charade and it’s just unfortunate, during a time like this, they will use taxpayers dollars to host this charade.”

Critics say Jordan openly he wants to use his congressional powers to defend Trump from what he claims is a politically-motivated prosecution. Critics say it is nothing more than outright racism from a party that is now controlled by right-wing extremists and white supremacists.

“The pro-crime Republican Party’s latest political stunt is to come to New York City and interfere in an ongoing criminal investigation,” New York Democratics Representatives Dan Goldman and Adriano Espaillatsaid in a statement “At the explicit direction of Donald Trump, they are coming to the safest big city in America with the sole aim of abusing their power to serve as a taxpayer-funded arm of Donald Trump’s legal defense team.”

Reports The New York Times:

There is little doubt that the hearing’s subtext is political; it is the latest instance of Republicans trying to amplify voters’ concerns about violent crime and blame Democrats for it. Here is what the data actually says about crime in New York — and what Monday’s session is really about.

New York was once the murder capital of the country, with a shocking 2,245 homicides in 1990. The city’s turnaround has been studied by criminologists across the country for decades as a success story.

The number of murders fell to fewer than 300 in 2017 and 2018, before the spike in violence during the pandemic. Last year, the city experienced 438 homicides.

Since the announcement of the Republican-led hearing, Mr. Bragg has referred to New York as the “safest big city in America” and emphasized that its crime rate is lower than cities in the states of his Republican critics. For instance, Mr. Bragg said, New York’s crime rate is about one-third that of Columbus, Ohio, just south of Mr. Jordan’s district.

New York is also statistically safer relative to its population than other places in Republican and swing states, such as Jefferson County, Ark.; Robeson County, N.C.; Montgomery County, Ala.; and Bibb County, Georgia, according to Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

— Luke Broadwater and Hurubie Meko in The New York Times

Jordan has sent letters to Bragg demanding testimony and documents, claiming his 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 sued Jordan last week to try to block the subpoena, calling it a “brazen and unconstitutional attack” and a “transparent campaign to intimidate” him over the Trump case. A federal judge scheduled an initial hearing for Wednesday.

Monday brings a House hearing designed to pump up the argument that Bragg is so focused on Trump, he is letting street crime flourish.

Attacking New York City, and its mostly Democratic leaders, over crime is an old trick for politicians who represent rural and suburban districts. It is a punch that can still land with some audiences, though 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. By comparison, Palm Beach County, Florida, where Trump is one of about 1.5 million residents, had 96 killings.

–The Associated Press

Dr. Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research & Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, notes: “People hear New York and they think crime, and that’s because they’ve been trained to think that way. 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.”

“When you look at the per capita numbers, suddenly the Bronx and Queens don’t look all that scary,” Butts adds.

Reports Michael Sisak of The Associated Press:

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 that, among other things, said his office would not prosecute certain low-level misdemeanors.

That set up some early clashes with the New York Police Department leadership and also got the attention of Republicans outside the city, who 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 campaign for governor, repeatedly promising to remove the independently elected prosecutor from office.

Zeldin lost, but his rhetoric about crime 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 took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most categories of crime in the city are still above 2019 levels. Several types of crime, including burglaries, car thefts and assaults, rose in Manhattan during Bragg’s first year in office, though they have been falling again this year.

Despite focusing on Bragg, the House Judiciary Committee has not invited him to testify, nor is anyone from his office expected to participate. Instead, the committee is planning to hear from at least six witnesses.

Among them: Jose Alba, a former convenience store clerk arrested after he stabbed an attacker to death in his shop. Bragg’s office dropped the charges but critics say he should have dismissed them sooner; Madeline Brame, who blames Bragg for seeking long prison sentences only for two of the four people involved in her son’s killing; and Jennifer Harrison, a victim advocate whose boyfriend was killed in New Jersey in 2005 — outside Bragg’s jurisdiction and long before he took office.

Bragg’s campaign sent an email to supporters Friday deriding the hearing as a “politically motivated sham.” U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the committee’s ranking Democrat, told the news outlet Gothamist the hearing is “an attack on our system of justice.”

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the planned hearing “a circus if there ever was one.”

Since taking power in the House, Republicans have launched a sweeping oversight agenda delving into the far reaches of President Joe Biden’s administration, his family and the workings of the federal government.

While conducting oversight is a key function of Congress, the House GOP’s wide-ranging probes have often delivered more sizzle than substance. Long on allegations, committees led by Jordan and others have been slow to produce findings that resonate and sometimes have diverged into conspiracy theories.

–The Associated Press

Associated Press reporters David B. Caruso in New York and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report./

Copyright © 2023 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press

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