Associated Press Archives | Email alerts

July 9, 2020, 5:02 p.m. EDT

Berman says Barr ‘repeatedly urged’ him to resign as top SDNY prosecutor

Since-ousted U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman says he met with the attorney general in a hastily arranged meeting at a Manhattan hotel last month, telling Barr that ‘while I did not want to get fired, I would not resign’

Watchlist Relevance

Want to see how this story relates to your watchlist?

Just add items to create a watchlist now:

or Cancel Already have a watchlist? Log In

By Associated Press

Associated Press
Geoffrey S. Berman, United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, arrives to his office in New York on Saturday, June 20. It turned out to be his final day on the job.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The ousted U.S. attorney who was leading investigations into President Donald Trump’s allies told the House Judiciary panel on Thursday that Attorney General William Barr “repeatedly urged” him to resign during a hastily arranged meeting that sheds light on the extraordinary standoff surrounding his departure.

Geoffrey Berman, the former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, provided the committee with a detailed account behind closed doors of three days in June as he was pushed out, according to his opening statement, which was obtained by the Associated Press.

Berman said Barr, over a 45-minute session at the Pierre Hotel in New York, “pressed” him to step aside and take on a new job heading up the Justice Department’s Civil Division so the administration could install Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to the top prosecutor post in Manhattan.

“I told the attorney general that I was not interested,” Berman told the panel.

Berman explained, “There were important investigations in the office that I wanted to see through to completion.” He told Barr that, while he liked Clayton, he viewed the SEC commissioner as “an unqualified choice” for the job.

“He had had no criminal experience,” Berman said.

Clayton reportedly has been a golf partner of Trump’s on several occasions , including, according to the New York Times, just days before Barr sought Berman’s resignation from SDNY.

When Barr warned Berman that if he didn’t go voluntarily he would be fired, “I told him that while I did not want to get fired, I would not resign,” Berman said.

The Judiciary Committee interview, which was being transcribed for public release later, comes as the panel deepens its probe of politicization at the Justice Department.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has called Berman’s dismissal “part of a clear and dangerous pattern” of behavior by Barr. The panel’s Democratic majority is pursuing its investigation of the attorney general, who they say operates more like Trump’s personal lawyer than the nation’s top law-enforcement official. Barr is set to testify before the committee later this month.

The Southern District, known for its high-profile prosecutions, is where Berman oversaw several ongoing investigations of Trump associates, including some who figured prominently in the House impeachment inquiry of the president.

Berman’s office is looking into the business dealings of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and a former New York mayor. It has also prosecuted Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who went to prison for lying to Congress and campaign-finance crimes and was on Thursday returned to federal prison days after the New York Post published photos of him at a restaurant.

The closed-door interview with Berman spanned three hours. He was not expected to disclose information about the investigations into Trump’s circle, but rather to discuss only his removal, according to a person familiar with the proceeding who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it. He arrived without a lawyer.

The session comes as the Capitol remains partially shut down during the COVID-19 crisis. A handful of lawmakers, but not all of those on the panel, attended.

Berman, a registered Republican and reportedly a donor to Trump’s 2016 campaign, was tapped by the administration in 2018 as the U.S. attorney for SDNY.

1 2
This Story has 0 Comments
Be the first to comment
More News In
Economy & Politics

Story Conversation

Commenting FAQs »

Partner Center

Link to MarketWatch's Slice.