Mark F. Pomerantz, a former prosecutor who once helped lead an investigation of Donald J. Trump, appeared before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee Friday for a statement but declined to answer many of their questions about the prosecution of the former president on charges of falsifying business records.
Mr. Pomerantz cited the confidentiality of the pending case and invoked a variety of privileges, including the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, to avoid answering the committee’s questions, according to an opening statement obtained by The New York Times. He said that he had agreed to appear because he respected the rule of law.
“What I don’t respect is the committee’s use of subpoena power to compel me to engage in political theater,” Pomerantz added. “We are gathered here because supporters of Donald Trump would like to use these proceedings to try to obstruct and undermine the criminal case pending against him, and to harass, intimidate, and discredit anyone who investigates or indicts him.”
Mr. Pomerantz repeatedly cited New York law protecting the privacy of active investigations and said he had been threatened with possible prosecution for violating the secrecy of the grand jury process if he answered certain questions.
“While I’m sure I didn’t break any laws, I’m not required to answer questions if my answers can be used against me in criminal proceedings,” he said, adding: “I’m not happy to invoke my legal rights, but I’m glad to that the law allows me not to cooperate with this representation of political theater”.
Forcing out Pomerantz was a victory for Republicans who have rushed to use their power in the House to defend Trump since it became clear that Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, was about to impeach the former president.
Mr. Bragg, who has criticized Republican attempts to interfere with his work, Defendant for trying to block the Judiciary Committee — which is led by Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio and a close Trump ally — to force Pomerantz to testify. But that effort failed.
A representative for Mr. Bragg appeared with Mr. Pomerantz in Washington on Friday.
“The district attorney’s office participates in today’s statement and affirms our rights to oppose the release of confidential information protected by law,” a spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg said in a statement.
A federal judge ruled last month that congressional Republicans on the Judiciary Committee had the constitutional right in their role as lawmakers to question Pomerantz.
“It is not the role of the federal judiciary to dictate what legislation Congress may consider or how it should conduct its deliberations,” the judge wrote, adding: “Mr. Pomerantz must appear for deposition before Congress. No one is above the law.”
The Judiciary Committee quoted from that judgment on Twitter Friday as Pomerantz testified.
Still, some Republicans expressed frustration with Pomerantz’s refusal to answer questions.
“He hasn’t answered any questions,” Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican and a member of the committee, told reporters outside of the statement. “He has asserted, on behalf of the prosecutor’s office and himself, what I would characterize as taking the Fifth, effectively taking the Fifth every time. I have never had a more obstructive and less cooperative witness in my more than 20 years in Congress.”
Mr Trump faces trial in New York for his role in a silent money payment to an adult movie entertainer, Stormy Daniels, who later agreed to keep quiet about her story of an affair with him.
He 34 count indictment accused him of falsification of business records related to payment, which was in the last days of the 2016 presidential campaign and could have functioned as an illegal donation to his candidacy. He has pleaded not guilty.
Jonas E. Bromwich contributed reporting.