William Barr screwed up big time when he tried to get rid of the Southern District of New York’s (SDNY) top federal prosecutor, Geoffrey Berman. Donald Trump finally got his Roy Cohn attorney in the current attorney general. Barr made two primary errors when he forced Berman out of the traditionally independent organization.
The first occurred when Barr lied about the reason the U.S. attorney quit. That was news to Berman, who had no intention of stepping down. When it happened in June, Berman released a statement. Then, last week, the former U.S. prosecutor testified about the issue before the House Judicial Committee. Barr released a statement indicating that Berman was gone on a Friday evening.
So, what was the big rush to unseat the head of the SDNY? The former SDNY lead prosecutor testified that Barr “repeatedly urged” him to take another position in the government. Berman testified, according to The Washington Post:
‘[T]here were important investigations in the office that I wanted to see through to completion.’
Who is this Roy Cohn that Trump says he acquired when Barr showed up with a many-paged application and a history of working for President George H.W. Bush as AG. Well, Cohn was indicted for:
- ‘Obstructing justice
- ‘Filing false reports’
Berman was referring to investigations into Trump’s fixer and attorney Rudy Giuliani for violating foreign interest lobbying laws regarding The Ukraine. Berman testified before the Judiciary Committee panel last week:
‘The Attorney General said that if I did not resign from my position I would be fired. He added that getting fired from my job would not be good for my resume or future job prospects. I told him that while I did not want to get fired, I would not resign.’
Barr made the mistake of saying Berman had “stepped down.” Not true. The former SDNY employee testified in sworn testimony last week to that effect. Then, Barr followed that mistake with another lie, falsely claiming that the head the Securities and Exchange Commission Jay Clayton wanted to return to New York leaving his current job and Washington DC. What was Barr’s rush? The SDNY prosecutor could have stayed on until Clayton was installed.
The House Judiciary Committee released the full. transcript of the testimony Monday. The former lead prosecutor did not speculate about the AG’s reasoning. Berman’s opening statement began with him discussing Barr’s multiple offers of a different job. Perhaps, Berman had seen similar promises abandoned after the AG got what he wanted.
Berman considered Clayton ill-prepared to replace him with no experience as a criminal prosecutor. After all, heading the SDNY is a very big job. Yet, he told Barr that he would leave quietly should Clayton be confirmed:
‘I told the attorney general in that meeting, you know — even though I said, you know, Clayton was unqualified, I said: Look, if he’s nominated and confirmed, I’m stepping away without a peep. I respect the process. I told the attorney general that I would not make a peep, not make a noise if the normal process was adhered to, which would be a nomination and confirmation of a candidate for the United States attorney.’
Then, Berman continued:
‘I told expressly the attorney general in that meeting he would not hear a peep out of me, I wouldn’t make a sound, I would step down once the nominee was confirmed or certainly if I were removed by the court. But, as I told the Attorney General: Nominate him, have him confirmed, you won’t hear a peep out of me. I’ll leave without a sound.’
Then, Barr started playing dirty. Words that described Cohn could be applied to the AG. People who knew the infamous Cohn described him, according to The POLITICO Magazine:
- ‘A snake’
- ‘A scoundrel’
- ‘A new strain of a son of a bitch’
- ‘A tax cheat’
- Incorrigibly unethical’
The list continues:
- ‘Dark-arts untouchability’
- ‘Beat the system’
- ‘Didn’t pay taxes’
- ‘Didn’t pay bills…friend or foe’
- ‘A pitbull’
- An intimidator’
- A Houdini’
- ‘A prototypical Teflon man’
- ‘A Machiavelli’
Just like Trump’s mentor Cohn, Barr stepped forward. However, he made Berman’s exit messy. He released a statement on June 19 claiming Berman had stepped down and that Craig Carpenito would take the job until Clayton could be nominated.
Berman said “No” and refused to leave. His office which was investigating other friends of the president, even his previous fixer Michael Cohen’s campaign finance violation. That was when the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicated Berman left for another reason, that the White House “wanted to find a job for someone they liked.”
Barr did not even know for certain whether Clayton could have been confirmed. The Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R=SD) said that he had not been given a heads-up about Berman leaving.
The SDNY head managed to negotiate for his longtime deputy Audrey Strauss to replace him instead of Carpenito. Why did this situation devolve s fast and with weak evidence to support Barr’s reasoning?
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.
Twitter world had something to say about the Cohn-Barr dominator. Check these out:
— Lucy (@Lucy12318111) July 14, 2020
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