By BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, fired by President Trump, appeared on Capitol Hill Thursday for a closed-door interview with the House Judiciary Committee, as the panel investigates the politicization of the Justice Department under Attorney General William Barr.
Berman, who led an office that prosecuted Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and continued to investigate another of the president’s personal lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, was fired late last month by President Trump following an extraordinary standoff with the Justice Department and the attorney general.
The former top federal prosecutor in New York’s famous Southern District initially refused to leave his post after Barr said in a statement that he had resigned. He quickly put out his own statement denying his resignation, claiming he only learned of the move from the Justice Department’s press release.
Berman, who contributed to Republican candidates and the president’s inaugural committee, and served as a partner at the same law firm as Giuliani, relented after Barr said he would replace him with his deputy, Audrey Strauss, rather than Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton.
The Southern District of New York, in addition to the prosecution of Cohen and investigation into Giuliani, has also investigated fundraising for the president’s inauguration, and charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Giuliani associates who, like the former New York City mayor, featured in events related to Trump’s impeachment. Parnas and Fruman were charged with campaign finance violations in October 2019.
Democrats say they are investigating what they say is a pattern of actions from Barr and the Justice Department that are overtly political and in service of the president’s personal interests.
In June, the committee heard testimony from two whistleblowers who alleged that Justice Department leadership inappropriately intervened in typically-sensitive law enforcement matters – related to the sentencing of Trump ally Roger Stone, and antitrust investigations into the marijuana industry – for political reasons and to benefit Trump’s interests.
Democrats plan to release a transcript of the interview with Berman in the coming weeks, while Barr has agreed to testify before the committee on July 28, after a standoff with Democrats who have sought his appearance before the House since March.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.