House judiciary panel to interview ousted NY prosecutor

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Geoffrey S. Berman, United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, arrives to his office in New York on Saturday, June 20, 2020. The Justice Department moved abruptly Friday night to oust Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan overseeing key prosecutions of President Donald Trump’s allies and an investigation of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. But Berman said he was refusing to leave his post and his ongoing investigations would continue. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The ousted former U.S. attorney for Manhattan will sit down with the House Judiciary Committee next week for a closed-door interview as the panel investigates politicization in the Justice Department.

Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who led investigations into allies of President Donald Trump, will appear in person for the transcribed interview July 9, according to a person familiar with the meeting who requested anonymity because it hasn’t yet been announced. The committee plans to publicly release the transcript.

Berman left his job last month after an extraordinary standoff in which he refused to resign until Trump himself fired him. Attorney General William Barr had attempted to force him to resign under pressure, but he refused to go.

Justice officials said Berman’s investigations would remain undisturbed, but Democrats on Capitol Hill have accused Barr of politicizing the agency and acting more like Trump’s personal lawyer than the country’s chief law enforcement officer. The Judiciary Committee is investigating the politicization and is scheduled to hear from Barr himself at the end of the month.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said last week that “the effort to remove Mr. Berman is part of a clear and dangerous pattern of conduct that began when Mr. Barr took office and continues to this day.”

Among the most high profile investigations Berman oversaw was into the business dealings of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer. The Southern District has also prosecuted a number of Trump associates, including Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who served a prison sentence for lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes.

Berman has overseen the prosecution of two Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were associates of Giuliani and tied to the Ukraine impeachment investigation. The men were charged in October with federal campaign finance violations, including hiding the origin of a $325,000 donation to a group supporting Trump’s reelection.

The White House nominated Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, a well-connected Wall Street lawyer with virtually no experience as a federal prosecutor, to replace Berman.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a close Trump ally, said he was unlikely to proceed with Clayton’s nomination unless New York’s senators, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, gave their consent to the pick. They have both said that they will not.

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