NEW YORK (Reuters) – 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 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 Bragg’s office was “investigating allegations that Donald Trump engaged in violations of New York State penal law.”
If indicted, Trump would be the first U.S. president to face criminal charges. He served as president from 2017-2021 and has mounted a third campaign for the White House while facing legal woes on several fronts.
Trump also faces federal investigations stemming from his handling of government documents after leaving the White House and alleged attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat as well as a state-level probe in Georgia into whether he unlawfully sought to reverse the 2020 election results there.
Trump has said he will continue campaigning for president if charged with a crime.
The response on Thursday from 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, Trump’s former personal fixer and lawyer, has said he made the payment to Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election at Trump’s direction.
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 Trump in 2006.
Trump has denied he ever had an affair with 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.
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.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Luc Cohen; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)