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Rep. Clyde signals appropriations fight over Trump prosecutions

Germaneness rules could be barrier to Georgia lawmaker's efforts

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., attends a House Appropriations Committee markup on July 18.
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., attends a House Appropriations Committee markup on July 18. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Appropriations Committee could consider amendments to the fiscal 2024 Commerce-Justice-Science bill next month stripping federal funding from prosecutors who are pursuing charges against former President Donald Trump.

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., a member of the House Freedom Caucus who also sits on the Appropriations Committee, announced Monday that he is working on two amendments to offer when the panel takes up the bill in early September. 

The Commerce-Justice-Science and Labor-HHS-Education measures are the last two appropriations bills for next year that the full committee has not yet considered; no official schedule for September has been released.

Clyde said he plans to introduce an amendment to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to prosecute any major presidential candidate prior to the upcoming presidential election, and a second that would prohibit funding for state prosecutions. 

“Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars have no place funding the radical Left’s nefarious election interference efforts,” Clyde said in a statement. 

Clyde said he intends to “defund” the efforts by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is charging Trump with falsifying business records related to payments to bury damaging stories during the 2016 election, as well as Special Counsel John L. “Jack” Smith, and Fulton County, Ga. District Attorney Fani Willis, who are prosecuting Trump in relation to his effort to overturn the 2020 election result.

A federal judge on Monday denied Trump’s bid to push the start date of his trial in his 2020 election interference case back to 2026, after the upcoming elections, instead setting a March 4, 2024, start date. 

Stripping funding from Smith’s office, however, could prove difficult. Smith’s office is financed through permanent indefinite appropriations in a 1987 law, not the annual appropriations process, meaning an attempt to strip that funding in the Commerce-Justice-Science bill could be ruled out of order as nongermane. 

Members of the House Freedom Caucus and other House conservatives have also eyed the “Holman rule” to defund Smith’s prosecution of Trump. That rule, which Republicans brought back this Congress, allows members to introduce amendments reducing a specific government official’s compensation paid out of Treasury. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., announced earlier this month that she would introduce an amendment using the Holman rule to block funding for Smith’s investigation into Trump on the House floor. 

However, that attempt would face similar long odds due to Smith’s funding source. 

The efforts to block funding from Bragg and Willis appear to be germane to the Commerce-Justice-Science bill. Though unlike Smith, the local officials may have primarily used state funding for the investigations rather than federal grants.

Bragg’s office, in a March 31 letter to Republican committee chairman, wrote that no federal grant program funding has been used for the Trump investigation. The office has used approximately $5,000 of federal asset forfeiture funding the office has received on Trump-related investigations, Bragg’s office wrote. 

The Manhattan DA’s office currently receives $50,000 in federal funds annually through Violence Against Women Act-related grants; around $583,000 a year in victims and witness assistance grants paid out of the federal Crime Victims Fund; and $204,730 in Justice Department grants over a four-year period starting in October 2020 to address violent crimes. 

Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sent a letter Aug. 24 asking Willis for a similar accounting of the federal funding her office receives. 

Some House conservatives are attempting to block all federal funding for Bragg and Willis’ offices — Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., has introduced two bills that would block all federal grant funding for both offices and rescind any unobligated balances received previously. Biggs has another bill that would bar the DA offices from expending any asset forfeiture funds on the investigations.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has a separate bill to cut off any funding for Smith’s office, including permanent appropriations.

Clyde’s amendments, though more narrow than Biggs’ bills, could imperil the Commerce-Justice-Science bill in committee. Moderate Republicans may be hesitant to support the amendments, which could then lead to House Freedom Caucus members voting against the underlying measure and dooming the bill.

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