USA

Judiciary Committee to interview Manhattan federal prosecutor ousted by Barr

The former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, who resigned last month under pressure from Attorney General William Barr, will testify to the House Judiciary Committee next week about the circumstances of his departure, according to a congressional aide.

The July 9 closed-door interview will be Congress' first foray into allegations that Barr sought to remove Geoffrey Berman as U.S. attorney to assert more control over investigations that touch closely on President Donald Trump‘s associates and personal interests. Barr has denied the suggestion.

But Berman‘s departure followed a series of bizarre steps taken by Barr and Trump that remain shrouded in mystery. Barr announced Berman‘s departure in a late-night statement on June 19, a Friday, that described his resignation as voluntary. Barr announced that the U.S. attorney from New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, would succeed him temporarily, and that Jay Clayton, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, would be nominated by Trump to replace him permanently.

But Berman quickly issued his own statement denying that he had voluntarily resigned and insisting that he had learned of the move on in Barr‘s news release. He also suggested that Barr was prohibited from removing him because he was appointed by judges to fill the post, the result of Trump‘s longtime failure to nominate a permanent U.S. attorney for the district.

Barr blasted Berman in a subsequent statement and then obtained Trump‘s authority to fire him. But Berman agreed to step down after Barr relented and named Berman‘s trusted deputy as his temporary successor, rather than Carpenito.

Democrats immediately assailed the move as an example of Barr politicizing the Justice Department. Barr is slated to testify to the Judiciary Committee on July 28, a month after two Justice Department prosecutors testified to the panel and alleged political interference in sensitive cases, including the prosecution of Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone.

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