Democrats pan Trump, Barr over dismissal of US Attorney Geoffrey Berman

Congressional Democrats hammered President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 FBI Director Wray warns of Chinese hacking, espionage threats against American companies Executing four white men won't erase death penalty racism MORE over the news that a U.S. attorney in Manhattan who was investigating associates of the president was abruptly dismissed

Democrats cast the sudden ouster of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who is probing Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenBarr to testify in House oversight hearing next month Stone received 'favorable treatment' because of relationship with Trump, former prosecutor will testify Nadler to subpoena AG Barr over Berman firing MORE, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiOusted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week Sunday shows preview: With coronavirus cases surging, lawmakers and health officials weigh in Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down MORE and other Trump allies, as a constitutional crisis and evidence of their claims that Trump is trying to politicize the Justice Department. They also praised Berman for his refusal to step down.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? Pompeo: US 'certainly looking at' ban on Chinese social media apps like TikTok Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide MORE (D-N.Y.) suggested that Trump had Berman dismissed to protect himself from an ongoing probe, saying in a statement, “This late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process. What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this U.S. Attorney or one that is ongoing?” 

ADVERTISEMENT

“This is a bombshell. Was the attempted stealth removal of the US Attorney done by AG barr to protect donald trump or his associates from investigation or prosecution? We need to find out,” added Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries The Hill's Campaign Report: Primary Day in New Jersey What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday MORE (D-N.J.). 

Democrats in Washington have long accused Trump of seeking to purge the government of officials he deems insufficiently loyal, pointing to high-profile firings in the Department of Justice and elsewhere in the administration.

Berman was first appointed to his post in 2018 after his predecessor, Preet BhararaPreetinder (Preet) Singh BhararaPush to oust Manhattan attorney sparks fresh crisis for DOJ Former Manhattan attorney Preet Bharara on DOJ move: 'Deja vu' Democrats pan Trump, Barr over dismissal of US Attorney Geoffrey Berman MORE, was dismissed for refusing to fire former President Obama’s appointees in the office.

ADVERTISEMENT

Several Democrats called on Berman to testify at an upcoming hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee that will feature testimony from Justice Department whistleblowers and former Department officials over the “unprecedented politicization” of the department.

“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,” tweeted Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the judiciary panel.

A number of Democrats noted that Berman’s office is investigating several Trump associates, including Cohen, who pleaded guilty to tax, bank and campaign finance crimes, and Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, over whether he failed to register with the government as a foreign agent.

Berman’s office has also subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee over an investigation into potential illegal contributions from foreigners and charged former Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsNY Republican Chris Jacobs wins special election to replace Chris Collins 5 things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Trump drags mild-mannered regulator into political firefight MORE (R-N.Y.), a Trump ally, with insider trading. 

Berman clarified after news of his dismissal broke that he would not be stepping down and that all of his office’s inquiries would continue.

"I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was 'stepping down' as United States Attorney," he said in a statement. "I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position. ... I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption." 

ADVERTISEMENT

Democrats seized on the chaos surrounding the ouster to revive calls to hold Barr “accountable,” with some lawmakers even calling for him to be impeached.

“This is a naked abuse of power. I’ve already called for AG William Barr to resign & for Congress to impeach him,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenConsumer bureau revokes payday lending restrictions Tammy Duckworth hits back at Tucker Carlson: 'Walk a mile in my legs' Trump criticizes Redskins, Indians over potential name changes MORE (D-Mass.), adding that Congress should “defund Barr’s authority to interfere with matters related to Trump, his family, & his campaign.”

“Last night, President Trump’s attorney general was less than truthful to the press and public, in an attempt to force out a prosecutor investigating criminal activity by the president and his allies. Congress will investigate," added Rep. Val Demmings (D-Fla.).

Barr has been a key focus of Democrats’ ire since early last month when the Justice Department said it would drop charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who had already pleaded guilty to lying to investigators over his contacts with Russian officials. 

“Attorney General Barr’s politicization of justice knows no bounds,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Trump's WHO decision raises bipartisan concerns in House Five takeaways from PPP loan data MORE (D-Calif.) said in a statement at the time.