Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who refused to step down last month after Attorney General William Barr issued a statement announcing he had been replaced, has made a bombshell revelation.
According to the Washington Examiner, Berman testified in a closed-door House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, where he claimed that Barr tried on multiple occasions to pressure him into resigning before ultimately firing him last month.
“I have not resigned”
A standoff between Berman and Barr began on June 19 with a Department of Justice statement announcing that Berman would be “stepping down” from his position, as the Examiner noted. Berman made it clear a short time later, however, that he was not on board with the plan.
“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney,” he wrote in a statement released just hours later. “I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.”
He went on to declare that he would “step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate,” but a statement from Barr on June 21 confirmed that President Donald Trump had fired the federal prosecutor.
This week, Berman gave Judiciary Committee members his version of events, which he said stemmed from a June 18 email in which a Barr staffer asked him to meet the following day at New York City’s Pierre Hotel, according to NBC News.
The meeting lasted for about 45 minutes, Berman said, and included Barr and the attorney general’s chief of staff. During that time, Barr reportedly asked Berman to resign from his position and accept another post in the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
“He was not at all dissatisfied”
“I responded that I loved my job,” Berman told the committee, according to the Examiner. “I asked the attorney general if he was in any way dissatisfied with my performance as U.S. attorney. He said that he was not at all dissatisfied.”
He went on to say that he took issue with the man Barr had chosen to replace him, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton. Neither Berman nor Barr were willing to back down.
After Berman rejected the Civil Division job, he recalled that Barr asked him whether he would be interested in any other administration job. When the U.S. attorney said no, the attorney general reportedly asked for his phone number to discuss the situation later so he would have some time to think about it.
Berman, however, told the congressional panel that he did not need to think about it and simply wanted to keep his job, as The New York Times reported. Following the initial meeting with Barr, he said he contacted a private attorney in case he was fired. He said he ultimately decided not to bring legal action after reaching an agreement that his deputy, Audrey Strauss, would be taking over for him.
It remains to be seen how long Strauss will remain in the position, but Barr has made it clear he has no problem removing those prosecutors he believes are unfit for the role.