Late-night chaos at DOJ as U.S. attorney insists he’s not leaving

Geoffrey Berman.                                       AP Photo/Seth Wenig

“America is right to expect the worst of Bill Barr, who has repeatedly interfered in criminal investigations on Trump’s behalf,” Nadler said shortly before midnight Friday. “We have a hearing on this topic on Wednesday. We welcome Mr. Berman’s testimony and will invite him to testify.”

“I thank Geoffrey Berman, who is stepping down after two-and-a-half years of service as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Barr said in a statement at around 9:30 p.m. “With tenacity and savvy, Geoff has done an excellent job leading one of our nation’s most significant U.S. Attorney’s Offices, achieving many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters.”

However, Graham (R-S.C.) indicated he would defer to the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition, in which individual senators may effectively block the nomination of someone who hails from their home state. That would empower Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to stop Clayton from advancing through the Judiciary Committee — and Schumer has already indicated he thinks Clayton should withdraw from consideration.

“Forty seven years ago, Elliott Richardson had the courage to say no to a gross abuse of presidential power,” Schumer said Saturday, invoking the Nixon-era prosecutor. “Jay Clayton has a similar choice today: He can allow himself to be used in the brazen Trump-Barr scheme to interfere in investigations by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or he can stand up to this corruption, withdraw his name from consideration, and save his own reputation from overnight ruin.”

Not long after Schumer, New York’s other senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, similarly called on Clayton to withdraw. “I will not be complicit in helping President Trump and Attorney General Barr fire a U.S. attorney who is reportedly investigating corruption in this administration,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

Nadler’s committee was already slated to hear Wednesday from two DOJ officials it’s describing as “whistleblowers” to testify about alleged political interference by Barr at the Justice Department to serve Trump’s personal interest. One, Aaron Zelensky, was a prosecutor in the case of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who withdrew from the case after Barr intervened to seek a lighter sentence. The other, John Elias, was a top antitrust official when the administration attempted to intervene in a merger between AT&T and Time Warner.

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