Trump Attorney General Barr a liar, bully and thug, says fired US attorney in book

Donald Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr, is stupid, a liar, a bully and a thug, according to a hard-hitting new book by Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York whose firing of Barr was hugely controversial . summer fashion 2020.

“Several hours after Barr and I met,” Berman writes, “on a Friday evening, [Barr] issued a press release saying that I was resigning. It was a lie.

“A lie told by the nation’s top law enforcement official.”

Trump’s politicization of the US Department of Justice has been a hot topic throughout his presidency. He remains so as he claims persecution under Barr’s successor, Merrick Garland, regarding the mishandling of classified information, the attack on the Capitol, and multiple other investigations.

Berman describes his own ordeal, as Barr sought a more politically flexible occupant of the hugely powerful New York office, in Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and its Battle with the Trump Justice Department, a memoir to be published next week . The Guardian obtained a copy.

Berman testified in Congress shortly after his dismissal. He now writes: “Nobody in SDNY knowing [his clashes with Barr over two and a half years] has been interviewed or written about them. So far, there has been no first-hand testimony.

Berman describes clashes over issues such as the prosecution of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen and the Halkbank investigation into Turkish bankers and government officials helping Tehran circumvent the Iran nuclear deal.

Barr was also Attorney General under George HW Bush. He published his own book, One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General, in which he discusses SDNY cases but does not mention Berman. While promoting the book, Barr told NBC that he “didn’t really think much about” his former adversary.

Berman calls it “an easily rebuttable lie.”

In Berman’s book, Barr is a constant presence. Describing the Halkbank affair, Berman says Trump’s closeness to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, meant Barr was “always eager to please his boss, seemed to be doing Trump’s bidding” by leaning on Berman to drop out. the charges.

Berman says Barr told him that he, Barr, would be the “go to person” for the administration of Halkbank, which Berman found “odd”.

“This is an ongoing criminal case from New York, isn’t it?” As attorney general, Barr had a role to play. But why as a person designated by the White House? It was problematic.

Berman says Barr tried to block the SDNY to benefit Trump politically. In June 2019, he says, he was called to a meeting where Barr told him that the Halkbank matter “involved foreign policy” and, “his voice … steadily rising,” asked : “Who do you think you are interfering with?”

He writes: “I’ve seen bullies work before. In fact, he had used the same words with me a little over a year before” about the appointment of Berman’s deputy, Audrey Strauss, without Barr’s approval.

Berman adds, “I would describe Barr’s posture that morning as hooligan. He wanted to bludgeon me into submission.

Berman refused Barr. He also says he told Barr that a proposal to offer those involved in the Halkbank case a non-prosecution agreement without disclosing the decision would be “a fraud in court.”

The Halkbank issue was eventually dropped, after Trump and Erdoğan argued over the US withdrawal from Syria. But Barr and Berman’s enmity remained.

Berman also gives his version of events in June 2020, when Barr called him into a meeting at New York’s Hotel Pierre.

Berman first delivers a pointed aside about Barr’s ostentatious trip, his apparent ambitions — Berman speculates the attorney general wanted to be secretary of state in Trump’s second term — and an infamous, secret meeting between Barr and Rupert Murdoch that Berman calls it “a scene right out of HBO’s estate.”

Berman says he didn’t know why Barr wanted to meet him, but thought it might have been because he refused to sign a letter attacking Bill de Blasio, then New York mayor, over the app Covid restrictions on religious services and racial demonstrations. Justice. Berman didn’t sign, he writes, because he couldn’t be seen acting politically.

At the Stone, he says, Barr, who with his chief of staff did not wear a mask inside, said he wanted to “make a change in the southern district”. Berman says he knew what was coming next, given changes elsewhere to install Barr allies and moves to influence investigations into Trump aides, including Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.

“The reason Barr wanted me to resign immediately was so that I could be replaced by an outsider he trusted,” Berman wrote, adding that he was unsure if he could be removed other than by the judges who appointed him to fill the position ad interim. basis in 2018, or by confirmation by the Senate of a successor.

Berman declined Barr’s offer. He says Barr then made a “particularly vulgar” suggestion: that if Berman decided to run the DoJ’s civilian division, “I could leverage it to make more money after I left government.” Berman says Barr also asked if he had any civil litigation experience, a question Berman considers “almost comical.” Then Barr threatened to fire him.

Berman “thought to himself, what a crass, colossal bully this guy is for threatening my livelihood”. He didn’t move. Barr said he would consider other jobs. After the meeting, Berman writes, Barr asked if he wanted to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Berman says the job “wasn’t [Barr’s] to offer,” because the SEC Chairman is appointed by the President and the Senate confirmed.

Berman says he agreed to talk to Barr again after the weekend. Instead, that night Barr issued a press release saying Berman had agreed to step down.

“It was a lie, plain and simple,” Berman writes. “I made it clear to him that I would not resign. Barrer [was] the Attorney General…in addition to being honest, he should be smart. And that was really stupid of him – a complete miscalculation…he should have known at this point that I wasn’t going to walk away quietly.

In a press release, Berman said he had not resigned. The next day, he showed up for work, greeted by a swarm of journalists. Then, in a public letter Berman now calls “a silly rant,” Barr said Berman was fired by Trump.

Barr abandoned a plan to replace Berman with an acting U.S. attorney, instead allowing Berman’s deputy, Strauss, to succeed him. Berman says it allowed him to step aside in good conscience. He calls Barr’s decision a “surrender.”

Berman describes both his belief that he was fired because his independence posed “a threat to Trump’s re-election” and Trump’s insistence to reporters on the day of the firing that he had not fired Berman – Barr had done it.

“Barr’s attempt to push me away,” he wrote, “was so failed that he and Trump couldn’t even make up their stories.”

Trump Attorney General Barr a liar, bully and thug, says fired US attorney in book

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