WASHINGTON – Donald Trump‘s four criminal indictments have enraged his supporters and prompted his House Republican allies, who are trying to use the government funding deadline on Sept. 30, as leverage to undermine prosecutions.
They have bad news: Even a government shutdown would not stop the criminal proceedings against former President.
Indictments against Trump in New York or Georgia will not be affected. His federal indictments, for mishandling classified files and his role in the January 6 insurrection are criminal cases that have previously been exempted. In a 2021 Memo, the Justice Department stated that criminal litigation would continue uninterrupted in a shutdown as it is essential for the safety of life and property.
In its statement of expenses, the Department said that Jack Smith’s special counsel office is supported by “permanent and indefinite funding for independent counsels.” The special counsel’s office would not be affected by a government shutdown because it has a separate funding source. It could also use allocations from prior years.
Republicans are now looking for ways to include provisions in legislation governing government funding that would hinder federal and states prosecutors who had indicted Trump based on the unproven claim that he was being politically targeted.
It won’t come easy. Hard-right Republicans have led the charge in dividing their party over reining law enforcement powers. The House will find it difficult to pass these demands. A Democratic aide pointed out that the Justice bill was one of only two of 12 appropriations bills that the House GOP had not yet passed. This could indicate a split on how to proceed. Democrats who control both the Senate and White House are opposing calls to derail the law enforcement agencies as an interference in Trump’s case.
As Congress returns to session next week, tensions are rising over the negotiations needed to fund the government.
Three Trump prosecutors are targeted by an appropriator
Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), a Trump ally and member of the Appropriations committee, announced Monday that he would introduce two amendments in order to eliminate federal funding from all three Trump’s prosecutors – Smith, Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis, and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. His office stated that the measures would prevent them from prosecuting “any major presidential candidates prior to” 2024.
Clyde stated in a press release that “due to my grave concerns over these witch-hunt indictments against the President Trump, I intend on offering two amendments prohibiting any federal funds being used to prosecute major candidates for president in state or federal courts prior to 2024 elections.”
The GOP’s desire to use Congress’ “power of purse” to defend Trump who is running again for president, has taken hold in the past two months. It escalated following the latest indictment of Trump in Atlanta, in relation to his attempt to overturn the 2020 election result based on fabricated allegations of fraud.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is pushing for the funding to be cut off Smith’s Office, which indicted Trump on Jan. 6, in a criminal investigation, and in a Florida case involving his handling classified documents. Gaetz stated that the House of Representatives should defund Jack Smith’s office to end this witch hunt. is ‘s support for . Another Trump ally with the ear and a vote of Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), supports .
Jim Jordan, R. Ohio, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, is publicly urgingparty leader to insert provisions in government funding legislation which change how the Justice Department may use money. This includes barring the department from conducting a “politically sensitive investigation,” which includes candidates and their families, “until it establishes a non-partisan policy that requires career staff to supervise such investigations.”
Jim Jordan questions Willis and Bragg
Republicans are also looking at their leverage in order to limit state prosecutors. Jordan launched an investigation against Willis last week after she indicted Trump. She questioned her motives and demanded all documents related to her office’s receipt and use of federal funding.
In a letter, Jordan gave Willis until Sept. 7, to reply. Such reforms may include changes to the federal officers removal statute, immunity for federal officials and the permissible usage of federal funds. They could also include changes in the powers of special counsels and the division of prosecutorial power between federal and municipal officials.
The far-right Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) is taking a more blunt approach, by introducing legislation to “strip taxpayer funding from Fulton County DA Office” referring to the federal money that goes local prosecutors. He accuses Willis’s staff of waging a “politically-motivated witch hunt.”
Republicans have been under pressure from Trump supporters to minimize all four indictments against the former President, which contain detailed allegations of illegal activity presented to grand jury in multiple jurisdictions. Criminal trials starting as early as March are a possibility as Trump continues to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024, where he will face President Joe Biden.
Biggs also tweeted on Sunday: “Defund the FBI.”
GOP divisions, and Democratic pushback
Republicans are divided over whether they should use funding as a tool to rein in law-enforcement. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), an appropriator , told NBC News Jordan’s demands for law enforcement policies are “just requests” and won’t be “prioritized just because you’re Jim Jordan.” Susan Collins, R Maine, Appropriations Vice-Chair, recently stated: “Reforms might be necessary, but I strongly opposed defunding of the FBI and Department of Justice.”
Democrats reject GOP efforts to limit law enforcement, and warn against interfering in Trump’s legal dramas.
Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), House Appropriations ranking member, recently blasted proposed cuts to FBI and U.S. Attorneys. “Apparently, most people don’t like the idea of an independent Department of Justice looking into the criminal activities of specific individuals. It is a naked politicization. We cannot accept political influence on law enforcement activities as the norm.
Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), said that the four indictments showed “a pattern of criminal behavior by the former President.”
In a joint statement released recently, two of the top Democrats called on Trump, his supporters, and critics to “allow the legal proceedings to continue without outside interference.”