Ex-Prosecutor Says Attorney General Barr Pressured Him to Resign
(Bloomberg) -- A former top prosecutor in New York said he was pressured to step aside by Attorney General William Barr as his office was investigating President Donald Trump’s businesses and inaugural committee.
Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Barr pressured him to resign voluntarily and warned him that his firing would be detrimental to his career during a tense 45 minute meeting at Manhattan’s Pierre Hotel, according to a copy of his opening remarks obtained by the New York Times.
“We don’t know yet if the attorney general’s conduct was criminal but that kind of quid pro quo gets awfully close to bribery,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler following his panel’s closed-door interview of Berman.
The incident in June prompted calls from Democratic lawmakers for the impeachment of Barr.
Berman left the job on June 20 after a standoff with Barr and confusion over whether Trump had fired him. Berman initially refused to step aside to protect sensitive investigations being run by his office in Manhattan but eventually resigned after Barr picked Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss to replace him.
Berman described Strauss as a trusted prosecutor in the office who had already been overseeing Trump-related investigations.
The interview came as Nadler has been leading committee scrutiny of alleged political pressure and influence from top Justice Department officials and the White House on prosecutorial decisions in investigations.
Berman told the committee that his being replaced by an outsider would automatically and inherently lead to disruption and delay, Nadler said.
“He didn’t comment on specific cases but we can put two and two together,” Nadler added.
Nadler said the committee will ask Barr about the episode when he appears before the committee later this month.
The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, described the interview as “a lot of nothing.”
And Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, like Jordan, a Trump ally, said: “It’s clear that Mr. Berman had his feelings hurt as part of a shift in human resources by the administration.”
Since Trump took office, federal prosecutors in New York have pursued several investigations of him, his companies and people close to him. That includes the prosecution of Trump’s onetime personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen and one involving Trump ally Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to secure political dirt in Ukraine on former Vice President Joe Biden, now the president’s Democratic rival in the November election.
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