Democrats push for ousted U.S. attorney's testimony

Allan Smith

Democrats expressed hope Sunday that Geoffrey Berman, the ousted U.S. attorney for southern New York, will soon testify before the House.

The comments came after a dizzying weekend in which Attorney General William Barr initially announced Friday that Berman had resigned, to which Berman said he hadn't. Barr then said Saturday that, at his request, President Donald Trump had fired Berman. When asked about Berman's firing Saturday, Trump told reporters that he wasn't involved in the situation and that the decision was "up to the attorney general."

"That's his department, not my department," Trump said. "I'm not involved.”

Soon afterward, Berman announced that he was immediately departing as U.S. attorney in Manhattan, leaving control of the office in the hands of his deputy, Audrey Strauss.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said he was "sure" Berman would soon testify before the committee. Nadler's committee is holding a hearing Wednesday on allegations of White House political interference in the Justice Department, and Berman is invited.

"I don't know about Wednesday, but I'm sure he will testify," Nadler said.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said on ABC's "This Week" that it's his hope that the Judiciary Committee will hear from Berman soon, "because I think he has a lot to say about a continuing pattern of chaos, crisis and corruption that we have seen from the Trump administration from the very beginning until this very day."

Also speaking on "This Week," Sen. Tim Scott., R-S.C., said he wasn't concerned about Berman's ouster.

"I think President Trump actually hired Mr. Berman and he fired Mr. Berman," Scott said. "Everyone at the DOJ works at the pleasure of the president, No. 1. No. 2, there's no indication whatever that whatever is being investigated will not continue to move on."

In his letter to Berman on Saturday, Barr said he had been "surprised and quite disappointed" by Berman's response Friday night to his announcement that Berman had resigned.

"Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service," Barr wrote. "Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so."

It's unclear why Berman was removed. His office has been involved in a number of high-profile investigations involving people connected to the president, including an investigation of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's business activities and the prosecution of two Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, former associates of Giuliani's who were tied to the Ukraine impeachment investigation.

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In his announcement Saturday, Berman suggested that he was stepping aside because Barr had acknowledged that Strauss would take over the office rather than Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, whom the administration announced as a replacement Friday.

Speaking on "State of the Union," Preet Bharara, who had Berman's job before Trump fired him in 2017, said Barr "made a public misrepresentation about whether or not Geoff Berman was stepping down from office."

"It was clearly not the case. It was clearly a falsehood," Bharara said. "And he tried to cover that up with a letter that name-called the — spent time calling names against Geoff Berman and also retreated from the position a little bit, allowing Berman to decide that the office was going to be left in good hands with Audrey Strauss, the deputy."

"And I think that conduct alone shows there's a sort of unfitness for office," he continued, adding that the circumstances around the firing "show that, I don't think, it was in good faith."

Nadler said he believes Barr "certainly deserves impeachment." But, he said, "that's a waste of time, because the Republicans in the Senate won't look at that, and we have other ways of getting at this."