Apr 24, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump allies zero in on hush-money prosecutor

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves court with his attorney Todd Blanche during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 22, 2024 in New York City.

Former President Trump speaks to the media as he leaves Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday. Photo: Victor J. Blue-Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump's allies have quickly found a target in Matthew Colangelo, the Manhattan prosecutor who delivered the opening statement in the historic hush-money case against the former president.

Why it matters: Trump frequently jabbed at Colangelo before a gag order theoretically muzzled the ex-president — but now a barrage of attacks from Trump supporters in Congress and beyond have filled the void.

  • This week, top Trump allies on Capitol Hill have claimed that Colangelo, a former attorney with President Biden's Justice Department, left the DOJ specifically to go after Trump.
  • "Joe Biden's former No. 3 official at the Department of Justice left D.C. to help go after President Trump in New York," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Axios.
  • Such comments continued a pattern of Trump and his backers going on offense against those prosecuting him — and trying to link cases that aren't in federal courts to Biden, though the Justice Department isn't involved in them.

Reality check: Former DOJ official Michael Zeldin told Axios it's not unusual for a federal prosecutor to leave for a gig at the Manhattan DA's office.

  • Zeldin said federal prosecutors who want to handle more cases go to Manhattan for the bigger caseload there. Colangelo joined the Manhattan office in December 2022.
  • The Manhattan DA's office did not respond to a request for comment.

What they're saying: Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) joined Cotton in zinging Colangelo, telling Axios that Biden "stacked" the Justice Department with "weak 'defund the police' prosecutors" who are now working for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

  • House Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) accused Colangelo of being "part of the far left's witch hunt to wrongfully prosecute President Trump."

The big picture: Their criticisms reflect how defending Trump amid his many legal issues — and going after those prosecuting him — has become a litmus test in Trump's GOP.

  • Bragg has been a favorite target. House Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a top Trump ally, has been probing Bragg's investigation into Trump. The former president has called Bragg a "thug" and a "degenerate psychopath."
  • Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting Trump in federal courts for his handling of classified documents and his involvement in the Jan. 6 riots, has been the focus of attacks by Trump and GOP-led congressional investigations.
  • Jordan last year requested testimony from Colangelo in his probe of Bragg's investigation.
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