Donald Trump created a "false expectation" of his imminent arrest, the New York prosecutor investigating the ex-president over hush money said Thursday, as tensions build over a possible indictment.
Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg's office made the comments in a letter sent to three Republican lawmakers who had written to Bragg requesting that he testify before Congress about his probe.
The Republicans -- who are all chairmen of House committees -- accused Bragg, a Democrat, of waging a "politically motivated prosecution" in their letter dated on Monday.
It was sent after Trump had said on Saturday, without providing any evidence, that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday.
"Your letter... is an unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution," Leslie Dubeck, the general counsel for Bragg's office wrote in Thursday's response, seen by AFP.
"The letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene. Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry," she added.
Trump's post on Truth Social sparked a media frenzy, calls for protests by supporters, and saw New York police erect barricades outside Bragg's office, Trump Tower and the courthouse.
But the timing of any indictment is unclear.
The grand jury, which will be tasked with voting on whether to charge Trump, was not expected to sit Thursday, meaning any decision would come next week at the earliest.
The 76-year-old Trump would become the first former or sitting president to ever be charged with a crime if the panel, formed by Bragg, indicts.
The unprecedented move would send shock waves through the 2024 election campaign, in which Trump is running to regain office.
Bragg is investigating a $130,000 payment to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
The payment was allegedly made to stop her from going public about a liaison she says she had with Trump years earlier.
Trump's ex-lawyer-turned-adversary Michael Cohen, who has testified before the grand jury, says he made the payment on his then boss's behalf and was later reimbursed.
If not properly accounted for, the payment could result in a misdemeanor charge for falsifying business records, experts say.
That might be raised to a felony if the false accounting was intended to cover up a second crime, such as a campaign finance violation, which is punishable by up to four years behind bars.
Analysts say that argument is untested and would be difficult to prove in court. Any jail time is far from certain.
Trump denies the affair and has called the inquiry a "witch hunt."