Jun 20 2020
Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today on behalf of all committee Democrats called on Chairman Lindsey Graham to hold hearings into the effort to remove U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman from his position in the Southern District of New York.
“I write to request an investigation and hearings regarding political interference in the work of the Justice Department, including an examination of Attorney General Barr’s effort to remove – and the President’s firing of – Geoffrey Berman as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY),” Feinstein wrote.
Full text of the letter follows:
June 20, 2020
The Honorable Lindsey O. Graham
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Graham:
I write to request an investigation and hearings regarding political interference in the work of the Justice Department, including an examination of Attorney General Barr’s effort to remove – and the President’s firing of – Geoffrey Berman as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).
Attorney General Barr’s actions raise serious concerns about improper interference in Justice Department investigations of personal and political interest to President Trump. This deserves the Committee’s immediate attention and should include an examination of the following:
Attorney General Barr’s effort to remove Mr. Berman, who was leading the SDNY investigations into possible corruption among members of the President’s inner circle. This includes an ongoing investigation of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for a wide range of business and financial dealings, including potential involvement in campaign finance violations during the 2016 elections. [CNN, 2/14/20] The SDNY is also investigating Deutsche Bank for possible money laundering and other financial irregularities, including transactions reportedly linked to the Trump Organization and Jared Kushner. [CNBC, 6/19/20]
Attorney General Barr’s replacement of Jessie Liu, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, with acting U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea, who overruled career prosecutors in Michael Flynn’s and Roger Stone’s cases. U.S. Attorney Liu oversaw the Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases and after she was replaced, the Justice Department reversed course and moved to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn. [Wash. Post, 5/7/2020] It also overruled career prosecutors by seeking a lower sentence against Roger Stone. [Wash. Post, 2/14/2020]
The reasons for the Justice Department’s reversals in Michael Flynn’s and Roger Stone’s cases. The Justice Department moved to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In Roger Stone’s case, political appointees at the Justice Department overruled the sentencing recommendation of career prosecutors. These career lawyers made a recommendation based on federal sentencing guidelines after Stone was convicted of obstructing Congress, making false statements, and tampering with a witness in connection with efforts to uncover Russian interference in the 2016 election. [N.Y. Times, 2/11/2020]
To ensure a complete examination of these issues, the Committee should hear from Attorney General William Barr, as well as former U.S. Attorneys Geoffrey Berman and Jessie Liu. All three can testify regarding efforts to remove these U.S. Attorneys and the specific investigations and cases handled by their offices – including the cases against Trump associates Rudy Giuliani, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, and Roger Stone. The Committee should also hear from the career prosecutors who withdrew from Michael Flynn’s and Roger Stone’s cases when the Justice Department overruled their charging and sentencing decisions.
Attorney General Barr’s intervention in matters that involve the President and his associates undermines the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice. His actions cast doubt on the ability of career Justice Department officials to follow the facts where they lead and to pursue justice in all cases, without fear or favor. These are matters of critical importance to the nation, and I look forward to hearing from you soon about this important request.
United States Senator