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'Defund' Justice Strategy Faces Tricky Rules Questions

When the House Appropriations Committee takes up the main justice funding bill in September, it will confront a question brewing among Republican critics of the prosecutions of Donald Trump: how to strip those prosecutions of their resources. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., a member of the House Freedom Caucus who also sits on the Appropriations Committee, announced Monday that he is working on two amendments to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to prosecute any major presidential candidate prior to the upcoming presidential election, and a second that would prohibit funding for state prosecutions, Roll Call reports. Clyde said he intends to “defund” the efforts by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is charging Trump with falsifying business records related to payments to bury damaging stories during the 2016 election, as well as Special Counsel John L. “Jack” Smith, and Fulton County, Ga. District Attorney Fani Willis, who are prosecuting Trump in relation to his effort to overturn the 2020 election result.

Stripping funding from Smith's office, however, could prove difficult. Smith’s office is financed through permanent indefinite appropriations in a 1987 law, not the annual appropriations process, meaning an attempt to strip that funding in the Commerce-Justice-Science bill could be ruled out of order as nongermane.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus and other House conservatives have also eyed the “Holman rule” to defund Smith’s prosecution of Trump. That rule, which Republicans brought back this Congress, allows members to introduce amendments reducing a specific government official’s compensation paid out of Treasury. However, that attempt would face similar long odds due to Smith’s funding source. The efforts to block funding from Bragg and Willis appear to be germane to the Commerce-Justice-Science bill. Unlike Smith, the local officials may have primarily used state funding for the investigations rather than federal grants. Clyde’s amendments could imperil the Commerce-Justice-Science bill in committee. Moderate Republicans may be hesitant to support the amendments, which could then lead to House Freedom Caucus members voting against the underlying measure and dooming the bill.


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