Good morning. It’s Monday. We’ll preview a congressional hearing that is scheduled to take place in Manhattan today. The subject is violent crime in that borough, but there’s a subtext.
Credit…Andrew Seng for The New York Times
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing this morning, not in Washington but in a federal office building in Lower Manhattan. The unusual “field hearing,” as the committee described it, has a title: “Victims of Violent Crime in Manhattan.” It is apparently intended to suggest that the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, has concentrated on the prosecution of former President Donald Trump rather than street-level lawlessness.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said that he and Mayor Eric Adams would join representatives of gun violence prevention organizations in a news conference of their own before the hearing.
The Republican-led committee said the hearing would look into how “Bragg’s pro-crime, anti-victim policies” had contributed to an increase in violent crime and made the city more dangerous (even though Bragg is the district attorney for only one of the city’s five boroughs).
Bragg’s office countered on Twitter that “the hearing won’t engage in actual efforts to increase public safety, such as supporting national gun legislation and shutting down the iron pipeline,” a name often used to describe the Interstate 95 corridor that delivers guns from states with weaker gun laws to New York.
I asked Luke Broadwater, a congressional correspondent in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, what to expect at the hearing.
Isn’t this political theater? Isn’t saying that violent crime is soaring in New York a way for House Republicans to attack Bragg for prosecuting Trump?
Of course. I mean, we are talking about politicians here, right? So there is a strong political motivation to everything they do.
And, in this case, that motivation is for the committee’s Republicans to try to use crime in New York as a political cudgel to wield against Bragg in response to the Trump prosecution. That’s not to say crime in New York isn’t a real issue, and there are of course many individual horror stories from specific cases. But the politics at play here are pretty obvious.
Democrats, for their part, plan to use the hearing to highlight Republicans’ resistance to curtailing access to guns.
Bragg maintains that congressional Republicans want to interfere in his office’s criminal case against Trump. How unusual is congressional scrutiny of a local district attorney, even if the hearing is not about Trump but about crime? And how unusual is it for the Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing outside Washington?
It’s true that House Republicans, led by the Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, are attempting to intervene in the case by putting public pressure on Bragg and bogging down his office with demands. They have issued a subpoena to one of Bragg’s former top prosecutors, Mark Pomerantz, and have demanded access to Bragg’s communications and documents about the case.
Their argument is that the prosecution is politically motivated. Under Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., the office used $5,000 in federal funds in the case, and they are researching legislation to prevent similar prosecutions in the future.
Lawyers for Bragg have gone to court to keep the committee from enforcing the subpoena, and a hearing on the matter is set for Wednesday, the day Pomerantz is scheduled to appear before the committee.
Congress has wide authority to investigate almost anything, but it’s exceedingly rare for a committee to take the actions the Judiciary Committee is taking.
As for the field hearing, it will be the second the Judiciary Committee has held outside of Washington this year. The first was about the state of the southwest border in Yuma, Ariz. The House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, has encouraged the Republican-led committees to hold hearings outside of Washington and expanded their travel budgets to do so.
Has the committee called Bragg as a witness?
My understanding is the committee did not ask for Bragg to appear, but the Republicans had earlier asked to interview him about the Trump prosecution.
What’s the basis for saying violent crime is soaring here? The Police Department says major crimes are down.
Major crime is down in New York this year, according the latest crime statistics. That said, it’s up about 45 percent from this time two years ago, and 23 percent from this time 13 years ago, driven especially by surges in felony assault and auto theft, according to the same Police Department chart.
Of course, Bragg is the top prosecutor for Manhattan, not the whole city of New York. Crime went up in Manhattan last year, Bragg’s first year in office, but is down about 2.4 percent this year, compared with 2022.
The causes of crime going up or down are often complex, and experts say it’s difficult to ever clearly blame or credit one official for crime statistics.
I would also expect Republicans to point to individual examples of horrific crimes that can carry narrative impact. And I would expect Democrats to counter by pointing to high crime rates and examples of violence from the Republicans’ districts.
Obviously Bragg and Jordan have tangled about the Trump investigation, first when Jordan issued the subpoena for Pomerantz and again last week, when Bragg filed a lawsuit accusing Jordan of a “brazen and unconstitutional attack” on the Trump prosecution. How might that affect what’s said at the hearing?
That will be the entire subtext of the hearing. Even though it is ostensibly about crime, it is really about Republicans’ attempting to harm Bragg politically.
I am sure we will get multiple references to the Republicans’ records demands and Bragg’s lawsuit.
I guess the big picture takeaway is that no one should expect a good-faith, bipartisan dialogue about how to address crime in New York or nationally, and I would be surprised if this hearing spurs any bipartisan legislation. This is designed to be a political fight, and that’s what we should expect.
Expect showers and fog early, then gradual clearing, with temps around 70. The evening is partly cloudy, with a low near 50.
In effect until Friday (Eid al-Fitr).
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Years ago, when Orchard Street was the place to go for the best prices on clothes, I went there for a pair of jeans.
There was one store in particular that had an endless supply. A salesman with a dour look on his face and the tired air of having seen it all accompanied me to the section of the store where the jeans were stacked on shelves from floor to ceiling.
He pulled out a pair of the style and brand I had specified.
“I’d like to try them on,” I said.
He shrugged and pointed to a nearby dressing room.
After I came out of the dressing room, I stood in front of a mirror to see how they looked. The salesman was waiting.
“These are nice, but a little too tight,” I said.
“They’ll stretch,” he replied.
I asked to try another pair in a larger size.
He shrugged and then pulled out another pair.
Same routine. I put them on in the dressing room, came out and returned to the mirror with him standing there.
“These are great,” I said, taking a look in the mirror, “but a little too big.”
“They’ll shrink,” he said.
— Ronald Vazzano
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Jeffrey Furticella, Rick Martinez and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].