A new battle in the political war over former President Trump’s indictment took place in New York on Monday.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a key Trump ally, held a field hearing.
The hearing’s official title was “Victims of Violent Crime in Manhattan” — and several such victims did testify.
But the hearing was plainly aimed at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), who led the probe that resulted in Trump’s indictment earlier this month on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
Here are the big takeaways from the four-hour hearing.
Trump loomed over everything
The centrality of the former president to the proceedings was obvious from the opening moments.
Jordan, in the process of making the broader argument that Bragg was too lenient on criminals, asserted that “the scales of justice are weighed down by politics” in Manhattan.
The GOP aimed to hit Bragg with a combination punch — arguing that the DA and his party are soft on crime, while also suggesting Bragg is wrongfully focused on Trump’s alleged wrongdoing for partisan reasons.
Even many Trump critics believe the case against the former president looks flimsy.
Once Jordan turned the microphone over to Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the issue of Trump came into even sharper relief.
Nadler insisted that the hearing was only taking place at all was because Jordan was “doing the bidding of Donald Trump.”
Nadler further charged that Republicans on the committee had designed the event “to intimidate and deter the duly elected district attorney of Manhattan from doing the work his constituents elected him to do.”
The shadow of Trump hung over the rest of the hearing.
Democrats tread carefully around witnesses
The Democratic members of the panel had to grapple with a politically delicate task — assailing the hearing itself but without making it seem as if they were also downplaying the experiences of key witnesses.
Those witnesses included Madeline Brame, who lost her son, Army Sgt. Hason Correa, in an especially brutal 2018 homicide. Brame is now the chairwoman of the Victims Rights Reform Council.
She alleged that Bragg and his office had treated her family “like garbage.”
Also testifying was Barry Borgen, whose son was badly beaten in a 2021 antisemitic attack.
Republicans contended that the Democrats on the panel were being dismissive of those voices. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) accused Democrats of engaging in a smear of “brave New Yorkers.”
Some Democrats on the panel struggled more assiduously than others in how to balance respect for the witnesses with skepticism of the proceedings.
Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) said it was right and proper that the witnesses “raise their voices.”
But, addressing them directly, she added: “There is an underlying sham going on here. I know you don’t like to hear it. Your voices are important. But two things can be true at the same time.”
A pitched battle over statistics
If any neutral observers were watching proceedings, they would surely have been confounded by the blizzard of statistics pointing in different directions.
Jordan in his introductory remarks referred to “a 23 percent surge in major crimes” in New York during 2022.
Jim Kessler of the moderate-liberal Third Way group contended that, “New York is safer, on average, than Ohio, Texas and many other places.”
Various other statistics were slung back and forth between the parties.
The hearing, in that respect, was a continuation of the ongoing battles between Bragg and Jordan.
Jordan has repeatedly asserted that Bragg has been soft on crime and that crime has risen as a result.
Bragg, in a legal filing suing Jordan last week, contended that homicides in New York City had declined 14 percent, year-on-year, as of this month.
One more battle in the culture wars
Monday’s hearing was just one more battle in a much broader culture war.
Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) characterized Bragg as a “woke district attorney” aligned with liberal financier and philanthropist George Soros, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement.
A short time earlier, Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) pressed Borgen, the father of the man who was beaten in an antisemitic attack, about whether verbal attacks on Bragg that referenced Soros were antisemitic. Though the witness averred in general terms, he agreed that one sign from an anti-Soros protester was plainly antisemitic.
There were, too, the attacks on the media that are commonplace on the most pro-Trump wing of the GOP.
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) during his remarks blasted the “dishonest media.”
“You in the back, you are the greatest threat to this country,” he told reporters.
Democrats seek to focus on guns
Democrats tried throughout the hearing to focus on the connection between crime and guns.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) said of trying to address crime without putting guns front and center, “You just can’t do it.”
At one point, Jordan contended that if Democrats cared so passionately about gun control, they should have done more to advance it when they held both chambers of Congress as well as the White House up until January.
That charge sparked an interjection from Nadler, who pointed to the impossibility of getting such legislation through the Senate without some degree of GOP support.
“Because of the filibuster you needed 60 votes, and we got no Republican votes and that’s why it didn’t pass,” the New York Democrat said.