Geoffrey Berman, former US attorney, says DOJ under Donald Trump pressured office to ‘aid them politically’, NYT says
Former US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, a Donald Trump appointee who was later fired by the former President, says top Trump-era officials in the Justice Department pressured his office to “aid them politically,” The New York Times reported Thursday.
“Throughout my tenure as U.S. attorney,” Berman writes in his forthcoming book according to the Times which obtained a copy of it, “Trump’s Justice Department kept demanding that I use my office to aid them politically, and I kept declining – in ways just tactful enough to keep me from being fired.”
“Holding the Line,” which is set to be released Tuesday, and includes the accounts from Berman comes amid a legal battle between Trump and the current Justice Department after it seized classified documents from his Mar-a-Lago residence in August.
In the book, the former US attorney for the Southern District of New York details efforts by the Trump administration’s Justice Department to have words that hinted at Trump in charging documents for Michael Cohen removed, the Times reported. Berman also writes how former Attorney General Bill Barr attempted to have Cohen’s 2018 conviction reversed.
Before Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts, including campaign finance violations, Berman writes that as his office was making a charging document listing the crimes, a Justice Department official unsuccessfully pressured then-Deputy US Attorney Robert Khuzami for the Southern District of New York to remove references to “Individual-1,” who was identified as Trump, according to the newspaper. Barr, after he became attorney general in 2019, also tried to kill the district’s investigations into others in Trump’s circle regarding possible campaign finance violations, the newspaper also writes citing Berman’s book.
Berman writes that his office was ordered to pause investigative steps, and that, “not a single document in our possession could be reviewed,” according to the Times. Audrey Strauss, who succeeded Khuzami, convinced Barr there was no basis to dismiss charges against Cohen, Berman also writes. Khuzami oversaw Cohen’s case because Berman was recused in that matter after it was referred to the office by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Barr declined to comment to CNN on Berman’s allegations in his book. CNN also reached out to Ed O’Callaghan, then-acting principal associate deputy attorney general, for comment on Thursday.
Barr reviewed the Cohen prosecution and raised concern that prosecutors had used the wrong provision in the law, according to a person familiar with the episode. Strauss and other prosecutors prepared memos that eventually agreed with Barr’s critique but the guilty plea wasn’t affected, which satisfied Barr.
Berman also writes that the Justice Department wanted to pursue an investigation into former Secretary of State John Kerry, who Trump accused in 2019 of violating the Logan Act by taking part in negotiations with Iran’s government. Kerry, who has denied the allegations, was not told about the investigation, according to Berman. After nearly a year of the investigation, Berman writes that he told the Justice Department his office would not prosecute Kerry and that a senior adviser to Barr told him they would take the case to another US attorney’s office, which also reached the same conclusion.