Written testimony from a supposedly closed-door hearing in the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee has been leaked to the media — and Attorney General Bill Barr is the clear target.
According to the Washington Examiner, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman wrote in prepared remarks for his Thursday hearing that he was asked repeatedly by Barr to resign from his position before finally being fired on June 20.
That firing came just a day after the Justice Department had announced that Berman would be “stepping down,” the Examiner reported.
Berman had countered that night with an announcement of his own that he was going nowhere, which prompted his final termination the following day.
A meeting with Barr
In Berman’s opening statement, which has been obtained and shared by multiple media outlets, the former U.S. attorney said he was notified on June 18 that Barr wanted to meet with him the next day at the Pierre Hotel in New York City, though it was not made clear what the meeting would be about.
He soon found out, however; in the roughly 45-minute-long meeting, Berman was informed that changes were going to be made in the Southern District office — chiefly, that an opening was needed for the proposed transfer of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton.
According to his statement, Berman opposed the appointment of Clayton to the role due to his lack of prosecutorial experience and insisted that he “loved” his job.
He also said he asked Barr if he was “dissatisfied” with the job he’d been doing, but noted that Barr maintained there was no dissatisfaction and the move was solely about creating space for Clayton to continue serving the administration.
“I did not want to get fired”
The now-fired U.S. attorney went on to note that Barr had repeatedly offered him a job overseeing the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — a job Berman had no interest in and repeatedly declined — as well as even the SEC chairmanship that Clayton would be vacating, an offer that was also refused.
It was eventually made clear by Barr that if Berman didn’t resign, then he would be fired. Berman, according to the Examiner, said he replied, “While I did not want to get fired, I would not resign.”
The leak of the judge’s remarks comes amid calls from Democrats for Barr’s own ouster in light of his handling of Berman’s dismissal. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) told The Washington Post after the hearing:
We don’t know yet if the attorney general’s conduct is criminal, but that kind of quid pro quo is awfully close to bribery.
That’s one way to look at it. But ultimately, it’s not up to Nadler or Berman who serves the Southern District of New York. And while Barr may have left Berman disappointed, that doesn’t make the AG’s actions criminal.