Why won’t DAASNY defend Alvin Bragg?

The powerful district attorneys association has been silent in the face of Trump’s attacks on the Manhattan DA

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jeenah Moon for The Washington Post via Getty Images

In the week since a Manhattan grand jury returned a 34-count felony indictment against former President Donald Trump, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been the target of racist attacks and death threats from Trump and his supporters. He’s received support from prominent Democratic politicians, but one group has been conspicuously silent – the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. The association, which represents Bragg and other DAs in the state, did not respond to a request for comment.

That silence caught the attention of state Sen. Julia Salazar, a strong supporter of criminal justice reforms who has frequently clashed with DAASNY.

“Have I missed a statement, today or anytime, from the DA's Association (DAASNY) in support of DA Alvin Bragg, who's faced death threats and overt racism for a while, especially for rightly seeking to prosecute our disgraced former president?” Salazar tweeted shortly after Trump was indicted. “They weigh in on less important things.”

“Got it, so DAASNY has time to complain about everything the state legislature does (such as invite them to hearings and accommodate them), but cannot be bothered to defend a District Attorney who has the courage to indict Trump,” she added. “We see you.”

Salazar was alluding to a minor controversy that ensued last month, when DAASNY claimed that the state Senate refused to hear testimony from Albany District Attorney David Soares, a former president of DAASNY, and instead received testimony from current DAASNY president J. Anthony Jordan the DA for Washington County.

DAASNY and Bragg have not always been on the best of terms. The association is known for its fierce opposition to the kind of criminal justice reforms that Bragg has championed – particularly the state’s 2019 bail reform law. Bragg, the first Black person to serve as Manhattan DA, identifies as a progressive prosecutor and criminal justice reformer, and he publicly criticized DAASNY while running for Manhattan DA.

“There’s no doubt about it,” he told Gotham Gazette in 2021. “The association has been an impediment to change. I think that is an objective truth.”

But Bragg stopped short of saying that he would refuse to join DAASNY, suggesting instead that he could try to reform them from the inside. “If we deny this organization the voice of a person of color with lived experiences that matter to district attorneys statewide, we will be missing out on the opportunity for change,” he told the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club during the campaign. After winning the Manhattan DA race, he joined DAASNY.

Despite Bragg’s membership in DAASNY, the organization never came to his defense last year when Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin promised to remove Bragg from office on his first day as governor. And it has remained silent even as Trump has threatened Bragg and Congressional Republicans have attempted to interfere in his prosecution of the former president.

In a series of posts on his social media site Truth Social, Trump attacked Bragg in racist terms, referring to him as a “Soros backed animal” – a reference to financier and philanthropist George Soros, a supporter of nonprofits that have backed the campaigns of progressive prosecutors.

A group of Democratic politicians representing Manhattan and civil rights leaders – including Reps. Adriano Espaillat and Jerry Nadler; state Sens. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, Liz Krueger, Robert Jackson and Cordell Cleare; Assembly Members Linda Rosenthal, Grace Lee, Al Taylor, Inez Dickens and Eddie Gibbs; New York City Comptroller Brad Lander; City Council Members Gale Brewer and Shaun Abreu; the Rev. Al Sharpton and New York State NAACP President Hazel Dukes – released a joint statement in response.

“This disgraceful attack is not a dog whistle but a bullhorn of incendiary racist and antisemitic bile, spewed out for the sole purpose of intimidating and sabotaging a lawful, legitimate, fact-based investigation,” the group said in a joint statement. “These ugly, hateful and anti-American attacks on our judicial system must be universally condemned without equivocation or hesitation.  It is clear that Trump would burn down the greatest values of our democracy, and destroy honest, ethical officials performing their constitutional duties, to escape accountability.”  

Cy Vance, Jr. – Bragg’s predecessor as Manhattan DA – also came to his defense.

“I’ve got to say that I was disturbed to hear the former president speak in the way he spoke about the district attorney, Bragg,” Vance said in an interview on “Meet the Press,” adding that the former president’s attacks on the DA could lead to a further charge for obstruction of justice. 

After Trump’s indictment, Bragg reportedly received death threats from the former president’s supporters and Republicans in the House of Representatives announced that they would investigate his office.

Still, DAASNY has said nothing – and the association’s silence has provided fertile ground for political opponents like Eliza Orlins, a public defender who ran to Bragg’s left in the Manhattan DA race and promised not to join DAASNY if elected.

“DAASNY’s silence in the face of the racist attacks on Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is hypocritical, but not surprising for a group that has long opposed real and meaningful change in this system,” Orlins told City & State NY. “Especially at a time when some of the attacks that we’re seeing from the right are nothing more than racist attempts to deflect and portray Alvin as a threat to ‘public safety’ himself, they should be condemning them, not remaining silent.”