Trump AG Barr will escape impeachment thanks to 'corrupt' Republicans – Nadler

Attorney general William Barr “certainly deserves” to be impeached and removed but will escape that fate because Republicans who control the Senate are “corrupt against the interests of the country”, the chairman of the House judiciary committee said on Sunday.

Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, told CNN’s State of the Union he would instead take $50m from the attorney general’s “own personal budget”.

On Saturday evening, after a near-24-hour standoff, Barr secured the exit of Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the southern district of New York.

The prestigious district has pursued investigations and prosecutions of allies of Donald Trump including two of his personal lawyers, Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani.

It also oversees the investigation of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, a Trump friend, and a case involving a Turkish bank which former national security adviser John Bolton has said Trump tried to influence as a favour to the Turkish president.

Barr said on Friday night Berman, a Republican who donated to Trump in 2016, had agreed to step down. Berman said he had not.

On Saturday, Barr invoked Trump’s authority to fire Berman, who accepted his fate. His deputy Audrey Strauss, a career prosecutor and donor to Democrats, will assume the role until the Senate confirms a replacement.

Barr and Trump want that replacement to be Jay Clayton, the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission who has never worked as a federal prosecutor. Barr had said the US attorney in New Jersey, a Trump ally, would fill the role in an acting capacity.

On NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, House intelligence chair Adam Schiff was asked if he accepted the reported explanation that Trump’s move to replace Berman with Clayton was “simply the president wanting to do a favor for a golfing buddy”.

“I can’t accept that explanation,” Schiff said, “given the pattern and practice of both the president in seeking to use the justice system to reward friends, punish enemies, protect people he likes, and Bill Barr’s willingness to carry that water for the president.

“Also, if you look at Berman’s statement, Berman apparently has the same skepticism. There’s a reason … he was saying ‘I’m not stepping down,’ that he wanted to ensure that these investigations continued … Berman clearly had a concern about why he was being pushed out.”

Clayton’s firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, has represented Deutsche Bank, one of Trump’s largest creditors which is itself under investigation by the DoJ. On Sunday Republican senator Tim Scott told ABC’s This Week: “There is no indication that those investigations will stop.”

Democrats have long claimed Barr acts more as a personal lawyer for Trump than the impartial chief of federal law enforcement. The attorney general, they say, has misrepresented the Mueller report and interfered in criminal cases involving Trump aides Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

Schiff also referred to recent removals of a number of independent government watchdogs.

“Given the firings of these inspector generals,” he said, “given the way that Barr has sought to intervene in cases to help out people like Michael Flynn or Roger Stone, and to seek additional punishment for people like Michael Cohen” – who has turned against the president – “… you really have to question what’s really at the basis of this Friday night attempted massacre, and now, completed one.”

That was a reference to the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of 1973, when Richard Nixon sought to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox and successive officials quit rather than do so. Nixon soon resigned, rather than be removed.

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has led calls for Barr to be impeached but Nadler said: “He certainly deserves impeachment but that would be a waste of time.

“We know that we have a corrupt Republican majority in the Senate which will not consider an impeachment no matter what the evidence and no matter what the facts,” Nadler said, saying such senators were “corrupt against the interests of the country”.

Measures against Barr would include the budget cut, he said.

When Trump was impeached, over attempts to get from Ukraine dirt on political rivals, he was acquitted in the Senate, which refused to call witnesses including Bolton, who is now publishing a book which includes allegations of more impeachable behaviour.

One Republican senator, Mitt Romney, voted for new witnesses and to impeach Trump. Susan Collins of Maine voted for witnesses.

Nadler, like other Democrats, has suggested Barr is seeking to impede investigations close to Trump. Asked which, he said: “I think it’s obvious that a number of investigations the southern district has been doing with reference to the president’s associates, Giuliani, the Turkish investigation, we’ve seen a pattern of Barr corruptly impeding all these investigations. So this is just more of the same.”

Nadler said he expected Berman to testify, if not at a hearing this week which will feature DoJ whistleblowers.

Preet Bharara, US attorney for the SDNY before Berman, whom Trump also fired, told CNN, for whom he now works, he did not think Berman would discuss ongoing investigations. He also condemned Barr’s conduct.

“The attorney general of the United States made a public misrepresentation about whether or not Geoff Berman was stepping down from office,” he said.

“It was clearly not the case, it was clearly a falsehood, and he tried to cover that up with a letter that spent time calling names against Geoff Berman and also retreated a little bit, allowing Berman to decide that the office was going to be left in good hands.”

Barr accused Berman of having “chosen public spectacle over public service”.

“Your statement also wrongly implies that your continued tenure in the office is necessary to ensure that cases now pending in the southern district of New York are handled appropriately,” the attorney general wrote. “This is obviously false. I fully expect that the office will continue to handle all cases in the normal course.”

Bharara said he thought Barr’s conduct “shows there is an unfitness for office”.


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

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