District of Columbia Attorney General Brian Schwalb is reportedly investigating Leonard Leo, a conservative activist who helped former President Donald Trump pick his three Supreme Court nominees, and his vast network of powerful dark money groups that have helped move the judiciary to the right. Representatives James Comer and Jim Jordan recently launched an investigation into AG Schwalb’s reported investigation, accusing him of having political motivations, and citing concerns about donor privacy.
CREW sent a letter to Comer and Jordan urging them not to interfere in the investigation, and laying out the precedent for investigators not cooperating with such congressional efforts. As the letter says, “Congressional interference in an ongoing investigation is not legitimate oversight; it is itself a weaponization of Congress’s oversight power that threatens to undermine our justice system and the American people’s faith in it.”
Interference by members of Congress into ongoing criminal or civil investigations may be viewed as attempts to influence the way the investigation is being conducted. In the rare instances in which Congress has requested materials from attorneys general pertaining to ongoing investigations, attorneys general have refused to provide them. The DC Attorney General’s office itself has previously rejected attempts by Congress to interfere in investigations, joining over a dozen states in both 2016 and 2017 opposing a Congressional committee’s attempt to obtain information about an ongoing investigation of ExxonMobil.
CREW’s letter also points out Comer and Jordan’s misunderstanding—or intentionally obscuring—the law in their justification for attempting to interfere in the Leo investigation. Among other legal issues, the letter rebuts the claim that the District of Columbia does not have jurisdiction over Leo’s actions and groups. Leo and his entities conducted significant business within the District: Leo worked full-time for the Washington, DC-based Federalist Society. In addition, the Concord Fund, previously the Judicial Crisis Network, which paid Leo’s CRC Advisors LL and BH Group more than $15 million combined, is headquartered in the District, and the 85 Fund, previously the Judicial Education Project, which paid CRC Advisors and BH Group more than $42 million combined, is also headquartered in the District. This more than justifies the DC Attorney General’s office’s jurisdiction for investigating those groups and their leader.
Congress should prioritize advancing the above bipartisan oversight reforms, not interfering in ongoing investigations under the false pretense of oversight.