National Security

Ousted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week

House Democrats have scheduled a transcribed interview next week with ousted U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, a powerful prosecutor for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) who was investigating President Trump's associates and family before his dismissal.

Berman is slated to appear for a closed-door interview next Thursday, multiple congressional sources tell The Hill.

Berman's appearance comes after Democrats announced last month that they would be launching an investigation into the U.S. attorney's ouster.

Democrats are particularly motivated to examine his removal because Berman was spearheading probes on multiple fronts, including whether Trump's personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, violated laws on lobbying for foreign interests as it relates to Ukraine.

Lawmakers have raised concerns that Trump is seeking to purge judiciary officials who he does not view as loyal, particularly in the SDNY, which is known for its independence.

Manhattan falls within the federal office's jurisdiction, making the president's businesses - which are headquartered in the Big Apple - also under its purview. 

"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," Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said last month in reaction to Berman's ouster.

The circumstances of Berman's removal last month were also opaque, with the White House pinning the blame on Attorney General William Barr and offering a muddled message.

Barr first announced Berman had stepped down, but the U.S. attorney then pushed back in a subsequent statement denying that he had resigned and stating that he did not have any intention of doing so.

Not long after, Barr notified Berman in a letter that Trump had officially fired him. That same day, however, the president claimed he was "not involved" in the decision.

The White House then indicated Trump only signed off on the decision, but that the decision was Barr's.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a briefing that the president had been involved only "in a sign-off capacity."

"The attorney general was taking the lead on this matter. He did come to the president and report to him when Mr. Berman decided not to leave, and at that point is when the president agreed with the attorney general," McEnany told reporters during a briefing in June.

Berman, who was first appointed to his post in 2018, will temporarily be replaced by his former deputy, Audrey Strauss, who is considered a well-respected career prosecutor who can pick up the baton with any such investigations.

Democrats began calling for Berman to testify last month, asking him to join other Justice Department (DOJ) whistleblowers and officials to testify about the politicization of the DOJ under Barr and Trump.

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