Press Releases

House Judiciary Committee Releases Transcript of Interview with Former SDNY Prosecutor Geoffrey Berman

Washington, July 13, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released a transcript of the Committee's July 9th interview with Geoffrey Berman, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).

Chairman Nadler issued the following statement on the release of the transcript:

“While Mr. Berman was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, his office announced multiple investigations that implicated President Trump, including the prosecution of the President’s longtime legal fixer Michael Cohen. We know from public reporting that the Office may also have been investigating the President’s inaugural committee and his current counsel, Rudy Giuliani.Had Mr. Berman not been removed, he would have had final decision-making authority over whether to investigate the President leading up to the 2020 elections, as well. When he appeared before the Committee last week, Mr. Berman could not comment on these cases—but he was adamant that Attorney General Barr’s scheme to force him out of office and replace him with an outsider raised serious concerns for him, and was designed to disrupt and delay the work of the office—including those implicating the President.

“The Attorney General seemed desperate to remove Mr. Berman—so desperate that, when his attempt to entice Mr. Berman with other positions in Washington failed, he outright lied to the American public about a resignation he knew had not occurred. We owe a debt of thanks to Mr. Berman for upholding his oath and refusing to be bullied by the likes of Barr.

“Mr. Berman also testified that he refused to resign—even when Barr threatened to fire him—because he feared that Barr would do to his office what he had done to other U.S. Attorney offices, including in the District of Columbia. That fear seems well founded, given Barr’s abrupt removal of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York just last week.

“We will have much to discuss with the Attorney General when he visits us at the end of the month. In the meantime, I am releasing the full transcript of our interview with Mr. Berman so that the American people can see for themselves how far Barr will go to protect the President.”

The full transcript is available here. Key quotes from Mr. Berman's testimony can be found below:

Barr tried to “entice” Berman to step down—which would have resulted in delay and disruption of SDNY’s ongoing investigations. Berman acknowledged this could be described as a “quid pro quo.”

  • Attorney General Barr “was trying to entice me to resign so that an outsider could be put into the acting U.S. attorney position at the Southern District of New York, which would have resulted in the delay and disruption of ongoing investigations. … And, in fact, my belief as to what he was trying to engineer actually proved to be correct when he issued his press release Friday night.” (71)
  • Berman testified that accepting the offer would have impacted his “official duty” to ensure “that the office’s cases proceeded without disruption or delay.” (18)
  • “You know, he wanted me to resign to take a position. I assume you could call that a quid pro quo. You resign and you get this, that would mean quid pro quo.” (34)

When Berman declined Barr’s offer, he threatened to fire Berman.  Berman still refused to resign.

  • “The Attorney General said that if I did not resign from my position I would be fired. He added that getting fired from my job would not be good for my resume or future job prospects. I told him that, while I did not want to get fired, I would not resign.” (9)

Barr was lying when told the American people that Berman was stepping down.

  • Berman testified: “Sometime after 9:14 p.m., on Friday, I became aware that DOJ issued a press release that I would be, quote, stepping down, unquote. That statement was false.” (10)
  • Berman testified regarding Barr’s false statement in his press release: “I believe that, when you issue a press release, everything in the press release should be accurate.” (69)

Barr offered Berman an obviously false cover story, but Berman confirmed that he believed Barr never explained the actual reason he was really asking Berman to resign.

  • “I do not know what the Attorney General's motives were, but the irregular and unexplained actions by the Attorney General raised serious concerns for me. … Why did the Attorney General not tell me the actual reason he was asking me to resign instead of saying that it was to get Clayton into the position? And why did he announce the appointment of Craig Carpenito as acting U.S. attorney when Audrey Strauss was the logical and normal successor?” (12-13)

While Barr did not tell Berman the actual reason for his removal, Berman testified that Barr’s plan to bring in an outsider would have been “unprecedented, unnecessary, and unexplained,” and resulted in the delay and disruption of SDNY’s ongoing investigations.

  • “Firing me and then bypassing my deputy, Audrey Strauss, to place Carpenito in charge of the office would have caused significant disruption and delay to the investigations the office was handling.” (32)
  • “Well, this was not a normal change of command in the Southern District of New York. In fact, it was extraordinary and unprecedented.” (32)

Although House Republicans argued that Barr committed no specific wrongdoing, Berman testified that Barr made false statements and that Barr’s actions were against the normal operation of law, inappropriate, unprecedented, and part of a larger pattern of conduct, as Barr had already abruptly removed other U.S. Attorneys in key offices.

  • Berman testified that Barr’s June 19 statement was false. (10)
  • Berman testified that he did not think that Barr asking him to resign outside the normal procedure was “appropriate.” (16)
  • Berman testified that Barr’s plan of appointing Carpenito “as acting U.S. attorney or anyone outside of the office would have been unprecedented, unnecessary, and unexplained, and would have resulted in the delay and disruption of the office’s investigations.” (13)
  • Berman testified that “based on the Attorney General Barr's prior practice of removing U.S. attorneys,” he had “grave concern that what happened with the removal of the U.S. attorney in D.C. could happen here.” (50)
  • “I do not know what the Attorney General's motives were, but the irregular and unexplained actions by the Attorney General raised serious concerns for me.” (59-60)

A full copy of the Geoffrey Berman interview transcript is available here.