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Top Congressional Republicans bolster Trump's violent rhetoric
Former president Donald Trump has launched a scorched-earth campaign to intimidate Alvin Bragg, the district attorney for Manhattan. Following reports that Bragg is likely to indict Trump for a hush money payment to former adult film actress Stormy Daniels, Trump has steadily escalated his rhetoric.
On March 18, Trump falsely claimed on his social media platform Truth Social that he would "BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK" and called for his supporters to "PROTEST" and "TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK." In a separate message later that day, Trump announced, "WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE" because "THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH." Echoing his rhetoric prior to the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol, Trump said, "WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!"
From that point, Trump's exhortations have grown more incendiary. On March 22, Trump claimed that Bragg, who is Black, was planning to indict him because Bragg is "racist" against white people. "REMEMBER, THE SAME ANIMALS AND THUGS THAT WOULD DO THIS TO PERHAPS 200 MILLION PEOPLE, BUT ACTUALLY ALL AMERICANS, ARE THE COMMUNISTS, MARXISTS, RINOS, AND LOSERS THAT ARE PURPOSEFULLY DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY!" Trump added later that day. On March 23, Trump labeled Bragg a "SOROS BACKED ANIMAL." (Billionaire philanthropist George Soros did not donate directly to Bragg's campaign. Soros did donate $1 million to an outside organization, Color for Change, that later spent about $500,000 supporting Bragg.)
The next day, Trump began issuing thinly veiled calls for violence. "EVERYBODY KNOWS I’M 100% INNOCENT, INCLUDING BRAGG, BUT HE DOESN’T CARE. HE IS JUST CARRYING OUT THE PLANS OF THE RADICAL LEFT LUNATICS. OUR COUNTRY IS BEING DESTROYED, AS THEY TELL US TO BE PEACEFUL!" Trump wrote.
Later that day, Trump posted a photo of himself holding a baseball bat next to Bragg's head.
That post was later removed by Trump's social media team. But on March 24, Trump described Bragg as "HUMAN SCUM" and "a degenerate psychopath that truely [sic] hates the USA." Trump warned ominously of "potential death & destruction" if he is charged by Bragg.
Trump's demonization of Bragg is having an impact. On Friday, NBC News reported that "a letter containing a death threat and white powder" was sent to Bragg's office. "ALVIN: I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!" the letter said. The letter was one of "several hundred threats" targeting Bragg, law enforcement sources told NBC, including "a couple dozen… messages [that] were considered to be directly threatening serious harm to Bragg."
Trump is clearly putting Bragg's safety at risk. But he is not doing it alone. Similar to the days prior to the January 6 attacks, Trump's tactics are being supported and validated by powerful Republicans in Congress. Three House members are leading the charge: Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY), and House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil (R-WI).
In a March 20 letter to Bragg, Jordan, Comer, and Steil accused Bragg of engaging in "an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority" and being "motivated by political calculations." The letter, in other words, was a sanitized version of Trump's posts on Truth Social. The three members demanded that Bragg turn over all documents related to the ongoing investigation of Trump and for Bragg to testify about the investigation in a transcribed interview.
According to a report in the New York Times, the action from House Republicans came following an explicit request from Trump's lawyers to intervene. Trump lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, asked Jordan to investigate the “egregious abuse of power" by a “rogue local district attorney.” Jordan not only sent the letter to Bragg, but also publicly suggested that Bragg was acting at the behest of the Biden White House and Congressional Democrats.
In a March 23 response, Bragg rejected the requests from the committee chairs, noting that "the District Attorney is obliged by the federal and state constitutions to protect the independence of state law enforcement functions from federal interference."
But Jordan, Comer, and Steil were not done. In another letter sent to Bragg on March 25, they accuse him of pursuing charges against Trump due to "political pressure from left-wing activists." The committee chairs announced they are considering "whether Congress should take legislative action to protect former and/or current Presidents from politically motivated prosecutions by state and local officials." They also warned that Bragg's anticipated indictment of Trump could cause a "potential confrontation between federal and local law-enforcement authorities," with the Secret Service clashing with local law enforcement officers seeking to arrest Trump. The letter reiterates their demands for Bragg's documents and testimony.
Notably, this letter from Jordan, Comer, and Steil was sent after Trump suggested that a "peaceful" response to his arrest would be foolish and after Trump warned that charging him with a crime would result in "death and destruction."
Their support of Trump has not gone unnoticed. At the first major rally of his 2024 campaign, Trump personally thanked Jordan and Comer:
I also want to thank the Republican Congress because you know people can be critical but they are working so hard. Jim Jordan. James Comer. He's become a great star. These are great people. They are putting themselves at risk because they take a lot of abuse but they're doing something that we haven't seen in Washington in 25 years. So I just want to thank those two. And many people that are working with them.
But Trump isn't the only one backing Jordan, Comer, and Steil. They have also received considerable support from corporate America, including many of the companies that pledged to cut off donations to members of Congress that backed Trump on January 6.
Corporate support for members of Congress backing Trump's attacks on Bragg
Following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, hundreds of corporations announced that they would end or suspend contributions to the 147 members of Congress that voted to overturn the results of the election. The rationale was clear: these members were bolstering Trump's effort to subvert the democratic process and, therefore, helped establish the conditions that lead to the violent assault. Over time, however, many corporations quietly abandoned these commitments.
For example, AT&T announced on January 11, 2021, that it would "suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes last week."
AT&T, however, cast aside its pledge on January 31, 2022, donating "a total of $67,000 to 16 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election." AT&T offered no explanation for its change of course. Among the recipients was Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC), who received $5,000. Hudson not only voted to overturn the election but also defended Trump's false claims about the election a year after the vote.
In November 2021, Hudson told Politico that "there was election fraud" in the 2020 presidential election. He claimed that Trump's lies were "reflecting that accurate belief that we have to shore this stuff up."
This year, AT&T's PAC donated $2,000 to Jordan. Not only did Jordan vote to overturn the 2020 election, but he is now validating Trump's violent rhetoric against Bragg. AT&T also recently donated $1,000 to Comer and $3,000 to Steil. (Comer and Steil did not vote to overturn the 2020 election.)
Other corporate PAC contributors to Jordan over the last year include UPS ($10,000), Wells Fargo ($5,000), Comcast ($5,000), Anheuser-Busch ($5,000), and Koch Industries ($12,500).