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Congressional Democrats triggered by the firing of a U.S. Attorney in New York are back at it again with plans to launch new probes into President Trump’s administration.
The outrage and pearl-clutching by Democrats came amid a standoff of sorts between Attorney General William Barr and the District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, who refused to step down from his position though the administration had already named his replacement.
“Attorney General Bill Barr told us that Geoffrey Berman of the SDNY had resigned—which was untrue,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler wrote over the weekend, announcing this his panel would “immediately open an investigation.”
“Barr told us that the president asked him to fire Mr. Berman—which may also be untrue, given that the president says he had nothing to do with the decision,” the New York Democrat added, referring to Trump’s contention that it was Barr’s call when he was asked about the issue Saturday as he left the White House for Tulsa, Okla.
‘Unbelievable drama’ when US Attorney refuses AG Barr’s order to step down and be replaced https://t.co/wftvLaHGVP
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) June 20, 2020
Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Nadler claimed this was another in a “pattern” of Barr’s “obvious” attempts to obstruct ongoing criminal investigations in the southern district of New York. He also said he is “sure” Berman will testify before Congress.
America is right to expect the worst of Bill Barr, who has repeatedly interfered in criminal investigations on Trump’s behalf. We have a hearing on this topic on Wednesday. We welcome Mr. Berman’s testimony and will invite him to testify. https://t.co/SpVYzLhANR
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) June 20, 2020
“The whole thing smacks of corruption and incompetence, which is what we have come to expect from this President and his Attorney General,” Nadler wrote over the weekend.
“We know that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is engaged in investigations aimed at President Trump’s inner circle,” Nadler said. “We know, from revelations earlier this week, that the President wanted to have ‘his own people’ in that office to help him with his personal and political needs. And we know that, time and time again, Bill Barr has reached into ongoing criminal investigations in order to protect the President from their consequences.”
Subpoenaed Justice Department officials, Aaron S.J. Zelinsky and John W. Elias, are set to testify on Wednesday and, according to Nadler, and will “explain why Barr’s attempt to fire Mr. Berman is part of a larger, ongoing, and wholly unacceptable pattern of conduct.”
Mr. Berman, who resisted Attorney General Barr until a trusted deputy was in place before stepping down, has earned a moment to catch his breath. He understands that he has an open invitation to testify before the Committee. 2/2 https://t.co/gQxnGgVNYE
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) June 21, 2020
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff hoped to see Berman testify this week, telling NBC News’ “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd that Barr’s move is a part of “the most disastrous management of the Justice Department in modern memory.”
(Source: NBC News)
“Like so much of what we have seen in this administration, it doesn’t come as a surprise anymore, but yet it’s completely demoralizing to the people in the department and dangerous to the rule of law,” the California Democrat added.
The Southern District prosecuted the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and has been investigating the business dealings of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday also called for an investigation into Barr’s decision on Berman.
The Senate Judiciary Committee must hold a hearing to take Geoffrey Berman’s testimony.
We must know the roles President Trump, Attorney General Barr, and anyone else played in the plot to oust U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 22, 2020
“I am calling for a three-pronged investigation that involves three entities: First, the Judiciary Committee, second, the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ and third, the Inspector General’s Office at DOJ,” Schumer said at his weekly press conference in New York City.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California also weighed in, demanding an investigation “regarding political interference in the work of the Justice Department” and into the ouster of Berman.
“Attorney General Barr’s intervention in matters that involve the President and his associates undermines the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice,” the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to committee Chairman Lindsey Graham. “His actions cast doubt on the ability of career Justice Department officials to follow the facts where they lead and to pursue justice in all cases, without fear or favor.”
Graham expressed his confidence in Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss becoming Acting U.S. Attorney and backed the president’s authority to remove Berman.
“It is my view that any president has the ability to replace political appointees, such as U.S. Attorneys,” the South Carolina Republican said. “The decision by President Trump to remove Mr. Berman as acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York falls within the president’s power to appoint or remove U.S. Attorneys.”
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