WASHINGTON (AP) — An ex-prosecutor who once oversaw Manhattan’s investigation of former President Donald Trump declined to substantively answer questions at a closed-door deposition Friday of the House Judiciary Committee, according to a Republican lawmaker in the meeting. The prosecutor and his boss said he was merely abiding by grand jury rules.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, exited the meeting after roughly one hour and said Mark Pomerantz, the former prosecutor, repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment that protects people from providing self-incriminating testimony.
Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a scheme to bury allegations of extramarital affairs that arose during his 2016 White House campaign. GOP lawmakers have decried the investigation as a “political persecution” and launched an oversight probe.
Pomerantz in a written opening statement called the committee’s inquiry itself “an act of political theater.” He also explained he was invoking the Fifth Amendment because the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had previously warned him before he published a book on the investigation that he could face criminal liability if he revealed grand jury material or violated a provision of the New York City Charter dealing with misuse of confidential information.
Pomerantz, who left Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office after disagreements over the direction of the Trump investigation, was subpoenaed by the Republican-controlled House committee. The panel, chaired by GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, is probing how Bragg handled Trump’s historic indictment.
“This deposition is for show,” Pomerantz also said in prepared remarks. “I do not believe for a moment that I am here to assist a genuine effort to enact legislation or conduct legislative ‘oversight.’”
Bragg had sued to halt Jordan’s subpoena of Pomerantz, but last month agreed to Pomerantz’s testimony after a delay and a condition that lawyers from the prosecutor’s office be present. The committee has said it would have allowed the district attorney’s lawyers even without the agreement.
Pomerantz had argued in court papers that the subpoena left him in an “impossible position” and would potentially require him to violate his ethical obligations.
Issa, the GOP 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 exited the meeting room after a deposition that lasted well over five hours and told reporters he was “surprised at some of the answers,” but declined to provide further details, citing committee rules.
Pomerantz’s attorney, Ted Wells, told reporters that his opening statement explaining why he would not be answering questions made it “very clear as to what happened.”
Pomerantz is allowed to refuse to answer certain questions that touch on legal privilege and ethical obligations, but Jordan could also rule on those assertions on a case-by-case basis. The Republican lawmaker said he would be conferring with the committee’s attorneys and members about taking legal action against Pomerantz, including holding him in contempt of Congress.
A contempt of Congress charge would require a full committee vote before going to the floor of the Republican-majority House.
Pomerantz recently wrote a book about his work pursuing Trump and discussed the investigation in interviews on “60 Minutes” and other shows. But Issa said he was not answering questions even on previous statements he had made.
Issa suggested the fight over testimony will return to the legal system, saying it would be “for the court to decide when we object to his failure to answer any questions.”
Bragg’s office said in a statement, “Consistent with the agreement we reached with the committee last month, the District Attorney’s Office is participating in today’s deposition and asserting our rights to oppose disclosure of confidential information protected by law.”