On July 9, 2020, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman appeared before the Committee for a closed-door transcribed interview. Following the interview, Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Committee Democrats selectively released cherry-picked information trying to paint a misleading and one-sided view of Berman’s testimony. This summary corrects the record on the Democrats’ inaccurate and misleading portrayal of the testimony.
Contrary to Chairman Nadler’s portrayal, the interview proved that Attorney General Barr acted appropriately at all times, including and especially in his interactions with Berman. The interview uncovered no evidence of misconduct, wrongdoing, or criminality. The interview uncovered no nefarious plot to stifle ongoing investigations in the Southern District of New York or anywhere else. If there is any clear conclusion from the interview, it is that Berman believed himself to be independent of and immune from Departmental oversight.
Excerpts from the full summary memo:
I. Berman stubbornly resisted the Attorney General’s attempts at an amicable transition for Berman out of his position
- Although Committee Democrats half-heartedly allege the Attorney General’s offer of other positions in the Administration proves a nefarious but unspecified plot, Berman testified that his removal was not related to concerns the Attorney General had with his management of any cases run by the SDNY.
II. Berman did not testify that any specific wrongdoing, misconduct, or other impropriety occurred during his dismissal by the Attorney General
- Berman testified that the Attorney General did not mention any specific witnesses, defendants, or cases as reasons for why he was asking Berman to resign as U.S. Attorney.
III. Berman believed himself to be independent of supervision from superior officers in the Executive Branch and immune from removal from his position
- Berman had significant difficulty testifying about the working and reporting relationship that he maintained with the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. While some joke that “SDNY” stands for the “Sovereign District of New York,” Berman would not concede that SDNY under his leadership operated under the supervisory authority of superior officers at the Department of Justice—specifically the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.
IV. Berman’s purported concerns about the Attorney General’s actions are unfounded, vague, and lacking specific evidence
- Berman believed that only one person—his deputy, Audrey Strauss—was the appropriate and legal replacement for him. While federal law makes Strauss the Acting U.S. Attorney by operation of law, it also allows the President to choose other senior federal officials to serve in that position. Berman was unable to explain with specificity how or why Strauss was the only person he believed could serve as U.S. Attorney and why the President could not select someone else.
Read the full memo here.