Former US Attorney Geoffrey Berman testified behind closed doors with the House Judiciary Committee, about his unceremonious forced departure from his position at the Southern District of New York (SDNY.) The committee is conducting oversight into AG Bill Barr's Justice Department for political interference in his department's cases, and Berman's opening statement to the Judiciary Committee makes clear that he was heavily pressured by Barr over the course of 24 hours — both in person and on the phone — to resign so that one of Trump's political hacks could take over his position.
According to The New York Times:
Mr. Berman recounted being summoned with no warning in June to a meeting with Mr. Barr at the Pierre Hotel in New York, in which the attorney general asked him to step down. Mr. Berman said he rebuffed Mr. Barr time and again during a tense, 45-minute discussion, telling him he would not resign and did not want to be fired, according to copies of his prepared statement obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Barr repeatedly tried to change Mr. Berman’s mind, he testified, offering him a job as head of the civil division at the Justice Department and warning “that getting fired from my job would not be good for my résumé or future job prospects.”
“I told the attorney general that there were important investigations in the office that I wanted to see through to completion,” Mr. Berman told the committee members, according to the statement.
Not satisfied, of course, Barr continued to pressure him, offering him a position as head of the DOJ's Civil Division, and when Berman expressed no interest in that (insisting throughout the meeting that nothing could entice him away from the job he loved at the SDNY) Barr offered him a job as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC.) As alleged carrots, Barr claimed these positions would be good for his resumé, going so far as to imply his career would suffer if he did not take one of them.
Berman had asked why he was being pressured to step aside, Barr told him that Trump wanted to replace him with Jay Clayton, who held the position at the SEC Barr offered him. Berman made clear Clayton was an unacceptable replacement, as he had "never been a federal prosecutor nor had criminal legal experience." Clayton is, however, a staunch ally of Donald Trump, and gee, maybe that's why Barr was trying to get him into that position, considering the SDNY was handling lots of litigation against Trump, including cases involving his taxes, fraud, and golly, that problematic and monstrous Jeffrey Epstein investigation, too.
Berman refused to step aside. Barr announced he was resigning, to be replaced by Clayton. Berman stated publicly he was not stepping aside — he had a lot of important cases to handle at SDNY. Barr announced, then, in that case, Trump was firing Berman. Berman had already assembled a legal team to challenge a dismissal like that, so soon it was announced that Berman would, indeed step down, but had won an important concession: his No. 2, trusted Deputy, Audrey Strauss, would be the one to replace him. Not Jay Clayton.
Less than one week later, two administration officials (Aaron S.J. Zelinsky and John W. Elias) testified publicly in front of the Judiciary Committee that Bill Barr improperly pressured them to make legal decisions based on political concerns designed to favor Trump and his friends.
Mr. Berman’s case is just part of the larger inquiry. Two department officials testified publicly last month that they had witnessed political appointees intervene in criminal and antitrust cases to serve the political interests and preferences of Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr. And the attorney general himself is scheduled to go before lawmakers this month in his first time before the panel overseeing his department.
One week later, Jeffrey Epstein's partner and confidante, Ghislaine Maxwell was taken into custody by none other than the SDNY.
Wonder if that Maxwell arrest would have happened had Barr succeeded in placing Jay Clayton in that Berman's job?
What a goddamned mess.