Speed Reads

Once more into the breach

Senate to investigate former prosecutor's claims Trump, Barr tried to use DOJ as a partisan cudgel

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) informed Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating allegations from former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman that former President Donald Trump and his Justice Department appointees tried to interfere with with prosecutorial decisions to punish Trump's critics and spare his allies, The New York Times reports. Berman outlines his charges in a forthcoming book, Holding the Line.  

Berman, a Trump appointee, publicly declined to step down as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in 2020 under hard pressure from then-Attorney General William Barr — including an announcement from Barr that Berman had resigned. Barr then told Trump to fire Berman.

Berman writes that Barr suggested in 2019 that SDNY drop its prosecution of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a related investigation into possible campaign finance violations, according to the Times, which obtained an advance copy of the book. 

Berman also says Justice Department officials pressured his office to prosecute former Secretary of State John Kerry, and told Berman's deputy to charge prominent Democratic lawyer Gregory Craig before the 2018 midterm elections, "to even things out," as DOJ official Edward O'Callaghan reportedly told Berman's deputy, referring to the SDNY's recent prosecution of two prominent Trump loyalists. When Berman's team declined to go after Kerry, the Justice Department asked another U.S. attorney's office, which also refused, he writes. The U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., did indict Craig; a jury acquitted him in less than five hours.

"These reported claims indicate astonishing and unacceptable deviations from the department's mission to pursue impartial justice, which requires that its prosecutorial decisions be free from political influence," Durbin, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told Garland. He asked Garland to give the committee all documents and communications between the Justice Department and SDNY related to Berman's claims about Cohen, Kerry, and Craig.