Republicans Attack Bragg, Spotlighting Crime Victims in New York

One Republican bashed him as “pro-criminal.” Another called him a “terrible” prosecutor with a habit of losing cases. A third suggested he was in the pocket of a wealthy Jewish financier frequently demonized by the far right.

“He should resign and be disbarred,” declared Representative Jeff Van Drew, Republican of New Jersey.

Two weeks after Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, announced 34 criminal charges against former President Donald J. Trump, House Republicans descended on his home turf on Monday to hold a hearing attacking Mr. Bragg’s record on crime, leveling exaggerated and sometimes outright false charges.

Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, convened his panel at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building to hear from an array witnesses who have been outspoken critics of Mr. Bragg for a session that was ostensibly about crime in New York City but whose unmistakable subtext was an effort to tarnish the man who is prosecuting Mr. Trump.

The result was a bitterly adversarial hearing that unfolded in a carnival-like atmosphere, drawing angry protesters from the left and the right who hoisted signs and hurled invective that was only slightly more vitriolic than the debate between Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

At one point, Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, chastised Republicans for traveling to New York to go after Mr. Bragg, saying they were behaving like “jackbooted thugs.”

A single elected official most likely has little sway over crime trends in a major metropolitan area, and crime in Manhattan, where Mr. Bragg took office in January 2022, is down from last year by about 2.4 percent — though it remains up significantly from two years ago.

Still, Republicans used individual crime victims to try to impeach his record. One by one, the witnesses invited by Republicans told personal horror stories of their encounters with crime in the city, including suffering an antisemitic attack and losing a loved one in a brutal stabbing. The witnesses described New York — where crime has plummeted in recent decades but spiked during the pandemic, as in other cities — as being in a state of decay, and blamed Mr. Bragg’s policies.

“We received no help from his office,” said Madeline Brame, the chairwoman of the Victims Rights Reform Council and the mother of a homicide victim who for months has taken issue with the district attorney. “It was a horrific experience.”

Democrats pushed back against the Republican effort to vilify Mr. Bragg while laboring to show sympathy for the victims.

“I fear that you are being used for a political purpose, despite your sincerity,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, prompting objections from the witnesses.

The hearing came a week after Mr. Bragg filed a lawsuit against Mr. Jordan seeking to stop congressional Republicans from interfering in his case against Mr. Trump — the product of a nearly five-year investigation that began under his predecessor — and specifically, to bar them from deposing Mark F. Pomerantz, a lawyer who worked on the inquiry for about a year.

On Monday, as the congressional hearing was getting underway, a lawyer for Mr. Jordan filed a response to Mr. Bragg’s lawsuit, saying that it represented “an extraordinary and unconstitutional” attempt to have a judge interfere in a congressional inquiry.

A lawyer for Mr. Bragg declined to comment on Mr. Jordan’s response.

The hearing was repeatedly interrupted by protesters and outbursts. At one point, a group loudly attempted entry into the hearing room, chanting, “Let us in!” They held signs that said “Jim Jordan, Insurrectionist,” referring to the Ohio Republican’s role in planning the efforts in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, to overturn the election results, and “34 felonies,” a reference to the charges against Mr. Trump.

Antisemitism was on vivid display. Outside the Javits building, a man held a sign with the name of the financier George Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, along with the image of a Star of David and dollar signs. Several Republicans inside the hearing room also focused their comments on Mr. Soros, whom they blamed for supporting the campaigns of progressive prosecutors, including Mr. Bragg’s.

“With antisemitic tropes emanating from House Republicans, it’s unsurprising, but no less vile, to see the Republicans bringing this antisemitism to New York outside today’s stunt hearing in Manhattan,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the committee.

Chaos erupted as the lawmakers left, with anti-Bragg protesters jeering.

Inside the hearing room, Democrats and Republicans engaged in a heated dispute over the state of crime in New York and around the nation.

Major crime is down slightly in New York this year compared with the same period last year, according to the latest statistics. But, as in cities around the country, New York saw a sharp increase in murders and shootings during the coronavirus pandemic. There was an increase in major crimes last year in New York, but murders, shootings and other crimes have continued to drop.

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 many of his Republican critics, including Columbus, Ohio, just south of Mr. Jordan’s district.

“How do we move the venue so we can have a hearing in a city or state that has a serious crime problem — the state of Ohio,” said Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island.

Republicans said Mr. Bragg, who announced upon taking office last year that he would not be prosecuting certain misdemeanor crimes — but later revised those policies amid a backlash — had prompted a crime spree.

“Imagine that,” Mr. Jordan said. “You leave criminals on the street, you get more crime.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg fired back in a statement: “For outside politicians to now appear in New York City on the taxpayer dime for a political stunt is a slap in the face to the dedicated N.Y.P.D. officers, prosecutors and other public servants who work tirelessly every day with facts and data to keep our home safe.”

For much of the hearing, Republicans avoided mentioning Mr. Trump’s name, seeking to keep the focus on crime in New York.

But Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, made the connection as he argued that Mr. Bragg had no business prosecuting Mr. Trump.

“Was it former President Trump that killed your son?” he asked one victim. “Was it former President Trump that killed your loved one?” he asked another.

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