Senate to investigate alleged Trump meddling in federal prosecutor’s office
The Senate Judiciary Committee will investigate whether former President Trump’s Justice Department attempted to use the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office to prosecute his critics and protect his allies, the panel’s chairman said.
“These reported claims indicate astonishing and unacceptable deviations from the Department’s mission to pursue impartial justice, which requires that its prosecutorial decisions be free from political influence,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Durbin cites a New York Times report detailing allegations from a new book by Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who served for two years under Trump and had previously volunteered on his 2016 campaign and transition team.
Berman has said that Trump appointees pressured the office to go after Trump’s critics and to shield Trump and his allies — and has argued that he worked to resist those efforts.
Berman has alleged he was fired by former U.S. Attorney General William Barr because his work was a threat to Trump’s reelection chances and that Trump’s Justice Department pushed him to indict Gregory Craig, the White House counsel for former President Obama, even after the Manhattan office found no reason to charge him.
Durbin noted that Berman “contends that Department officials pressured his office to remove references to President Trump from the charging document for Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer, as well as later attempts by Attorney General Barr himself to reverse Mr. Cohen’s conviction and stop related investigations entirely.”
The allegations “compound the already serious concerns” about Barr’s 2020 efforts “to replace Mr. Berman with a Trump loyalist,” Durbin wrote.
Trump fired Berman in 2020 after he refused to resign.
Durbin, in the letter to Garland, requested a number of documents and communications between the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, saying that “if accurate, Mr. Berman’s claims indicate multiple instances of political interference in the Department’s investigative and prosecutorial decisions.”
Berman’s new book, “Holding the Line,” is scheduled for publication Tuesday.