WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers will make their case Monday that New York City District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor who brought felony charges against former President Donald Trump, has neglected to address a wave of violent crime in the city.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan tweeted last week, “Alvin Bragg’s radical pro-crime, anti-victim policies have led to an increase in violent crime in New York City.” Jordan will chair the special hearing at the Javitz Federal Office Building to hear testimony from three witnesses affected by violent crime in the city.
The House committee holds no authority over Bragg, a state prosecutor who was elected to his position in 2021. However, the committee is planning to hold a “field hearing” in lower Manhattan, blocks from Bragg’s office, to draw public attention to the issue.
The hearing comes days after a New York grand jury indicted Trump on 34 felony charges brought forward by Bragg. Republicans allege the charges that Trump participated in a criminal conspiracy falsifying business records to cover up a potential sex scandal during the 2016 presidential campaign are a politically motivated attempt to obstruct his 2024 presidential bid. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the accusations.
In a tweeted statement, Bragg’s office said that during his first year in office, “New York City had one of the lowest murder rates of major cities in the United States (5.2) – nearly three times lower than Columbus, Ohio (15.4).” It went on to suggest that Jordan should address public safety in his home state of Ohio “instead of using taxpayer dollars to travel hundreds of miles out of his way.”
Bragg is suing Jordan in federal court, saying Jordan orchestrated a “brazen and unconstitutional attack” in a “transparent campaign to intimidate and attack” the district attorney’s office. If successful, the suit would prevent Jordan and other House Judiciary Republicans from enforcing a subpoena seeking testimony from Mark F. Pomerantz, a former special assistant district attorney who resigned last year in protest over Bragg’s decision not to prosecute Trump at that time.
Monday’s hearing will focus on Republican claims Bragg has failed to prosecute violent crimes or, in some cases, wrongfully prosecuted victims of violent crime. The claims are part of a larger Republican argument that violent crime has increased across the United States in cities run by Democrats. In 2021, the House Republican Conference tweeted an image of rising homicide rates in seven cities with the phrase, “Welcome to Biden’s America,” referring to President Joe Biden. That argument continued to be a major campaign theme for Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections.
According to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the number of murders in 70 major U.S. cities went down 4.3% in the first nine months of 2022 compared with the same time frame in 2021. Homicides, however, increased 6.2% from 2020 – when Trump was president – to 2021 when Biden took office. The association’s most recent figures show varying numbers for other violent crimes, including an 11% increase in robberies between 2022 and 2021 as well as a 3.4% decline in rapes and a 1.3% increase in aggravated assaults.
In New York City specifically, there was a 22% increase overall in major crime from 2021 to 2022, despite a decline in murders and shootings. Violent crime increased in the area – along with all major U.S. cities during the COVID-19 pandemic – but the city is also statistically safer than it was during a spike in crime during the 1970s and ’80s.
Advocates like Jennifer Harrison, founder of Victims Rights NY, who is scheduled to testify Monday, argue Bragg has failed to fulfill his duties, putting residents and visitors to New York City at risk. In a letter asking New York Governor Kathy Hochul to replace Bragg with a new district attorney, Harrison and others list several examples of Bragg failing to prosecute offenders or charging them with lower-level crimes.
Included in that list is the case of business owner Jose Alba, who was initially charged with second-degree murder for killing a man who attacked him in his convenience store. Alba was arrested and spent almost a week in prison before being released. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office dropped the charges after a public outcry and a further investigation into the incident. Alba – who is suing the city for wrongful imprisonment – is also set to testify.