By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Geoffrey Berman, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan who was ousted last month, told lawmakers on Thursday that U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr strongly pressed him to resign, according to a copy of his written congressional testimony.
Berman, who departed as his office continued a probe into President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, was warned by Barr that if he did not leave and was fired, it would “not be good for my resume or future job prospects,” Berman said.
Berman said Barr also repeatedly urged him to take another job, either in the Justice Department running its civil division or possibly as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Berman said Barr told him he wanted to appoint current SEC chairman Jay Clayton to replace Berman as Manhattan-based U.S. attorney.
Berman said he told Barr he regarded Clayton as an “unqualified choice” for the prosecutor job because he had never served as a federal prosecutor and “had no criminal experience.”
Berman said he initially issued a news release saying he had “no intention of resigning and that I intended to ensure that our Office’s important cases continue unimpeached.”
However, he ultimately agreed to leave.
Berman was scheduled to meet behind closed doors on Thursday with the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee following his June 20 firing.
Barr is scheduled to appear before the panel on July 28.
Democrats have accused Barr of improperly meddling in a number of criminal and antitrust investigations to protect Trump and his allies. Barr has defended his actions.
Last month, career prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky told lawmakers on the panel that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia faced political pressure to scale back its sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone.
Court papers filed in Stone’s case indicate that the Justice Department said Stone should report to a federal prison in Jesup, Georgia, next Tuesday. That could pave the way for a possible presidential pardon or sentence commutation after Stone was found guilty of obstruction as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.