The Trump administration is so thoroughly corrupt that Attorney General Barr’s attempt to get rid of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, and replace him with loyalist Jay Clayton has spawned massive speculation about why. Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes offer three possible scenarios.
- Simple patronage. Clayton recently played golf with Trump and told the president he wanted the job.
- Retaliation against the U.S. Attorney for prosecuting Michael Cohen.
- To stop an investigation that is currently underway.
Berman’s initial response to Barr’s lie that he had voluntarily resigned tells us which one of those three he assumed was the reason (emphasis mine).
I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney. I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. 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. I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favor — and intend to ensure that this Office’s important cases continue unimpeded.
Berman was able to make good on his commitment to ensure that important cases continue unimpeded by refusing to resign until his deputy, Audrey Strauss, was named acting U.S. Attorney. But in suggesting that his ouster was an attempt to intervene with investigations that are currently underway, he only lengthened the list of possibilities.
Investigations that the SDNY is handling that potentially implicate Trump and/or Barr
1. Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas
2. Jeffrey Epstein and Prince Andrew
3. Deutsche Bank
— Jeremy Louis (@JeremyLevine92) June 20, 2020
In order to understand this whole fiasco, we need to know the attorney general’s intentions. That has led some people to demand that Barr should be subpoenaed to testify before a congressional committee. But there are two things we’ve learned about this attorney general: (1) He will go to any lengths to protect Trump and his cronies, and (2) He lies. Even federal judges have made it clear that Barr’s word can’t be trusted. While it’s true that he would commit a crime if he lied before congress, that has never stopped him before. At this point I wouldn’t trust a thing that came out of his mouth. That is why I agree wholeheartedly with former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller.
For everyone saying House should subpoena or impeach Barr, that’s all fine, but ultimately symbolic given court timelines and realities in the Senate. The real action is coaxing whistleblowers from SDNY or elsewhere to come forward. Eye on the ball.
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) June 20, 2020
Former DOJ employee Julie Zebrak called for the same thing back in February.
To put it bluntly, Trump’s corruption of the Justice Department hides in plain sight. Equally obvious is the complicity of the attorney general who has made clear time and again that he’s perfectly willing to subvert the national interest to advance the president’s political interest…
While government attorneys may, by nature, be risk-averse and media-shy, the silence from those who are witnesses to Barr’s corruption is deafening. Career attorneys have been in the rooms where this has happened; they’ve been on the email chains. They are witnesses. It’s time for them to tell us what they know…
So, as the guardrails fall off our democracy each day, I keep wondering: Where are the Justice Department’s whistleblowers? Where are the people who have spent decades proudly serving the American public and have been sitting in on meetings with Trump appointees for the last three years?
Trial lawyers have an old saying: “Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.” While it is imperative for the American public to get answers about why Barr was so intent on getting rid of a U.S. Attorney whose office has been involved in multiple investigations of the president and his cronies, it is futile to bring the suspect before congress until we have some answers. So I’m not interested in hearing from the Attorney General. He would simply use the time to spread his own brand of propaganda and lies. I’d rather hear from some courageous people who know the truth and are willing to risk the president’s ire in order to tell it.