WASHINGTON (AP) — A former prosecutor who once oversaw Manhattans Investigations into former President Donald Trump How a Republican congressman declined to answer substantive questions during a closed-door testimony by the House Judiciary Committee in Friday’s session. The prosecutor and his boss said he was merely following grand jury rules.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, walked out after about an hour and said Mark Pomerantz, the former prosecutor, has repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment, which protects people from making self-incriminating statements.
Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up allegations of extramarital affairs that surfaced during his 2016 White House campaign. GOP lawmakers have labeled the probe “political persecution” and launched an oversight probe.
In a written opening statement, Pomerantz described the committee’s investigation itself as “an act of political theatre.” He also explained that he was invoking the Fifth Amendment because the Manhattan Attorney’s Office had warned him before the publication of a book about the investigation that he could be prosecuted if he disclosed grand jury material or violated a provision of the New York City violates charter with misuse of confidential information.
Pomerantz who left Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg After disagreements over the direction of the Trump investigation, the Republican-controlled House Committee was subpoenaed. The panel, chaired by GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, probed how Bragg dealt with Trump’s historic indictment.
“This statement serves the show,” Pomerantz also said in prepared remarks. “I don’t think for a moment that I’m here to support any genuine attempt to legislate or exercise any legislative ‘oversight’.”
Bragg had sued to stop Jordan subpoenaing Pomerantz, but last month agreed to Pomerantz’ testimony after a delay and on condition that prosecutors’ attorneys be present. The committee said it would have admitted the district attorney’s attorneys even without the agreement.
Pomerantz had argued in court documents that the subpoena put him in an “impossible position” and might force him to violate his ethical obligations.
Issa, the Republican lawmaker, told reporters, “This is an obstructing witness who has no intention of answering any questions.”
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, another member of the committee, also said lawmakers were “not getting many answers.”
Jordan left the courtroom after a testimony that lasted well over five hours and told reporters he was “surprised by some of the responses” but declined to give further details, citing the committee’s rules.
Pomerantz’s attorney, Ted Wells, told reporters that his opening statement, in which he explained why he wouldn’t answer questions, “made it very clear what happened.”
Pomerantz may decline to answer certain questions that touch on legal privilege and ethical obligations, but Jordan could also rule on these claims on a case-by-case basis. The Republican lawmaker said he will be speaking with attorneys and members of the committee about taking legal action against Pomerantz, including convicting him of contempt of Congress, among other charges.
An allegation of contempt of Congress would require a full vote in committee before being presented to the Republican-majority House of Representatives.
Pomerantz recently wrote a book about his work in tracking Trump and has discussed the investigation in interviews on 60 Minutes and other shows. But Issa said he didn’t answer any questions himself about previous statements he’d made.
Issa suggested the testimony fight would move back into the legal system, saying it’s up to the court to decide when we object to him not answering questions.
Bragg’s office said in a statement, “Consistent with the agreement we reached with the committee last month, the district attorney’s office joins in today’s testimony and asserts our right to object to the disclosure of proprietary confidential information.”