The Senate Judiciary Committee is now investigating explosive claims by a former federal prosecutor detailing how then-President Donald Trump (with the help of then-Attorney General Bill Barr and other officials) tried to pressure him into going after his political enemies.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced the investigation in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday, several days after the New York Times reported about the allegations in a new book by Geoffrey Berman, who served as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York for two years before Trump fired him.
“These reported claims indicate staggering and unacceptable departures from the Department’s mission to pursue impartial justice, which requires that its procedural decisions be free from political influence,” Durbin wrote.
Berman alleged in his book that a Trump political proxy at the Justice Department, Edward O’Callaghan, demanded in September 2018 that Berman’s office indict former Obama White House lawyer Gregory Craig, who was under investigation for his previous work for Ukraine, before the mid-term exams
That lawsuit was overtly political, according to Berman: O’Callaghan allegedly argued that Berman’s office, having prosecuted now-convicted Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) and former Trump arranger Michael Cohen, needed to criminally charge Craig to ” even things out.”
Berman ultimately refused to do so, so the department “sold” (in Berman’s words) Craig’s case to a federal prosecutor in Washington. Craig was indicted by that office on one count of making a false statement, but was acquitted by a jury in September 2019.
Berman also claimed that DOJ officials told him to open an investigation into former Secretary of State John Kerry, whom Trump had repeatedly attacked via Twitter, alleging that Kerry was secretly trying to preserve the Iran nuclear deal that the then-U.S. president had exploded.
In addition, Barr unsuccessfully tried to reverse Cohen’s conviction for campaign finance law violations, according to Berman.
In his Monday letter, Durbin asked Garland to turn over Justice Department documents about applications and communications related to Craig, Kerry and Cohen. The senator gave Garland a deadline of no later than Oct. 1. 3.
Durbin also noted the chaos surrounding Berman’s ouster in the summer of 2020, when Barr issued a statement claiming Berman had resigned, only for the then-prosecutor to defiantly announce that he “had no intention” of resigning. Trump then fired Berman, though he strangely tried to claim that he had nothing to do with the firing.
Read the letter below: