Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday formally requested that the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) open immediate investigations into the controversial firing of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Geoffrey Berman.
First the attorney general on Friday evening claimed Berman had “stepped down,” only to be contradicted by U.S. Attorney the same night. Barr on Saturday then claimed Berman was fired by President Donald Trump, the only person with the authority to make such a decision. But a few hours later, Trump told reporters he was “not involved” in the decision to fire Berman, laying the responsibility entirely at AG Barr’s feet.
In his Monday letter, Schumer asked DOJ IG Michael Horowitz and OPR Director Jeffrey Ragsdale to investigate the real reason(s) for Berman’s removal, saying the events that unfolded suggested Trump was attempting to manipulate ongoing criminal investigations.
“As the Attorney General was not truthful when he initially represented that U.S. Attorney Berman was ‘stepping down,’ this corrupt firing cannot be explained by cause and gives the impression that the President interfered in ongoing criminal investigations into himself and his associates,” Schumer wrote. “To help restore confidence in and prevent further abuses to the administration of justice, the American people deserve to know the truth.”
Berman eventually submitted his resignation Saturday evening, but only after Barr had agreed that well-respected Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss–Berman’s hand-picked second in command–would be taking over Berman’s role in an acting capacity.
Schumer’s request for investigations comes on the heels of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) inviting Berman to testify during Wednesday’s hearing on the politicization of the DOJ under Barr.
“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.
Read the letter below:
[image via MANDEL NGAN_AFP via Getty Images]
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