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House Democrats Want to Turn Geoffrey Berman into the Next Whistleblower

The House Judiciary Committee added another name to the list of Justice Department officials they wish to have testify about Attorney General William Barr’simproper politicization” of the DOJ. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Friday invited Geoffrey Berman to provide testimony during this Wednesday’s hearing.

“America is right to expect the worst of Bill Barr, who has repeatedly interfered in criminal investigations on Trump’s behalf. We have a hearing on this topic on Wednesday. We welcome Mr. Berman’s testimony and will invite him to testify,” Nadler posted to Twitter late Friday evening.

Berman was thrust into the center of controversy Friday evening when Barr announced that Berman was “stepping down” from his post as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) – an office that has overseen the prosecutions of several allies of President Donald Trump.

“I thank Geoffrey Berman, who is stepping down after two-and-a-half years of service as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Barr said in a statement released just after 9:00 p.m.

“With tenacity and savvy, Geoff has done an excellent job leading one of our nation’s most significant U.S. Attorney’s Offices, achieving many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters.”

The president then declared his intention to nominate current Securities and Exchange Commissioner Jay Clayton – who has no experience as a prosecutor – to lead the office. Clayton has been described as a “Wall Street lawyer” by the New York Times.

Berman, who was appointed to head the SDNY by federal judges after an extensive vacancy, immediately responded with a public statement saying he had no intention of stepping down and would not leave his post until a replacement was confirmed by the Senate.

Berman would be a valuable addition to the panel’s witness list which already includes current federal prosecutors Aaron Zelinsky and John Elias. Zelinsky, a former Robert Mueller deputy, resigned from the prosecution of Roger Stone after the DOJ reversed its sentencing recommendation for the former Trump advisor.

Elias, a career official in the Justice Department’s antitrust division, is expected to testify as to whether his office’s investigation into California’s fuel efficiency deal with automakers was politically motivated.

Nadler scheduled the whistleblower hearing due to Barr’s refusal to appear before the committee for more than a year. The panel also cut the budget of Barr’s personal office by $50 million.

Rep. Adam Schiff on Saturday called Berman’s attempted ouster “another attempted massacre,” saying Congress must find out why Barr suddenly wanted him out of the position.

“Another Friday night, another attempted massacre, this time SDNY U.S. Attorney Berman. Barr does Trump’s dirty work again. Whether this is payback for Berman’s past independence, or a new effort to obstruct pending investigations, we do not know. But Congress must find out,” Schiff wrote.

[image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.