As Washington prepares for the possible federal indictment of a former president, congressional allies of Donald Trump have previewed a muscular public defense that paints potential prosecutors as politically biased.
In letters, statements and media comments over the past days and weeks, Republicans in both chambers previewed their criticism of a possible indictment that some legal experts say could come as soon as this week from grand jury probes supervised by Special Counsel John L. “Jack” Smith.
Congressional Republicans have cast Attorney General Merrick B. Garland as biased, threatened to strip funding from the FBI, questioned the role of the FBI in that special counsel probe and moved to impeach FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The words and actions resemble Republican criticism of state law enforcement officials in April, when a 34-count indictment was unsealed against Trump in New York City. And they fit with Trump’s effort to make his perseverance against perceived political foes a key part of his third presidential bid.
Smith is supervising two probes into the former president and reportedly is nearing a charging decision. Those investigations focus on whether Trump committed any crimes in connection with his effort to overturn his 2020 election loss or in his retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida, after his presidency.
Trump’s attorneys have attempted to fend off any charges, and the legal team was seen Monday at the Justice Department. After the meeting, Trump posted frequently on his social media site that investigations against him were “ELECTION INTERFERENCE” and an attempt to throw the 2024 election to President Joe Biden.
“The Marxists and Fascists in the DOJ & FBI are going after me at a level and speed never seen before in our Country, and I did nothing wrong,” Trump posted.
Trump also argued the DOJ has acted out a double standard by not charging Biden or former Vice President Mike Pence with a crime over their possession of classified documents or Biden’s son Hunter as part of a prolonged investigation.
Republicans in Congress have picked up on those arguments, criticizing Smith, Garland and the FBI for their roles in the investigation of Trump.
In a Fox News interview Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called Garland “the most political attorney general in our nation’s history” and claimed Garland would indict Trump because he still holds a grudge from Republicans’ effort to keep him off the Supreme Court in 2016.
“Mark my words: I believe Merrick Garland will indict Donald Trump. He wants to indict Donald Trump because he hates Donald Trump. He hates him. He’s angry. Merrick Garland is angry that he wasn’t confirmed to the Supreme Court,” Cruz told Fox News.
Garland appointed Smith to oversee two criminal probes into Trump after the former president launched his reelection bid in November. At the time Garland said Smith would decide what, if any, charges to bring against Trump.
The most prominent efforts to criticize federal law enforcement have come from the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Accountability Committee.
Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, sent Garland a letter Tuesday asking for documents as part of the panel’s investigation into the “unprecedented raid” of Mar-a-Lago, the latest in a series of requests for more information.
Last week, Jordan sent a letter to Garland that questioned the involvement of the FBI in the probe, and he pointed to Special Counsel John Durham’s criticisms of the FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Durham’s report on the probe said several FBI officials did not follow the law and said the agency should only have opened a preliminary, rather than a full, investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and members of Trump’s campaign for president.
Jordan and other Republicans have pointed to the report as evidence that the FBI is biased against Trump and other conservatives. In his letter last week, Jordan said the DOJ should take steps to make sure “ongoing investigations are not poisoned by this same politicization.”
New York probe
Jordan has already pushed back on one criminal case against Trump, publicly investigating Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s probe that resulted in 34 charges against Trump. Numerous Republicans have already called to restrict federal funding to Bragg’s office and called to strip funding from the FBI or DOJ over the investigations.
The panel also issued a subpoena to a former investigator for the office, Mark Pomerantz. Bragg briefly disputed the subpoena in court before Pomerantz testified last month. In a letter made public along with the subpoena, Jordan said the panel may consider legislation to “insulate” current and former presidents from state and local prosecutions.
Pomerantz’s testimony did not satisfy all Republicans on the panel, particularly Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who announced a measure Tuesday that would use Congress’ rarely exercised inherent contempt power to have the House sergeant-at-arms arrest Pomerantz and compel his testimony.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Gaetz said the former prosecutor showed contempt for the process when he “incorrectly” asserted his Fifth Amendment rights and did not answer questions about his book on the probe.
“I believe Mr. Pomerantz engaged in misconduct in his targeting of President Trump, and his refusal to answer simple questions should not go unpunished,” Gaetz said.
In the House Oversight Committee, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., set a vote to hold Wray, the Trump-appointed FBI director, in contempt for refusing to hand over documents containing an allegation about Joe Biden’s time as vice president that dates from the Trump administration. The contempt proceeding comes after the FBI allowed Comer and other members of the panel to review the documents.
Trump has made public overtures for others in Congress to defend him, such as when his attorneys sent a letter in April to Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
At that time, then-Trump attorney Timothy C. Parlatore argued that the probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago should not be investigated as a crime.
Trump has also made broad arguments against those investigating him, including officials like the judge overseeing the state criminal proceeding against him. In the wake of the New York indictment, Trump called on Congress to defund the prosecutor’s office as well as the DOJ and FBI “until they come to their senses.”