Schumer Floor Remarks Demanding A Full Investigation Into The Firing Of US Attorney For SDNY Geoffrey Berman

June 22, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor, demanding a full investigation into false statements made by Attorney General Barr and the Trump administration’s firing of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

On another matter—there’s so much trouble this administration is in it’s hard to count, and you probably need several hours to document and talk about them all.

Last Friday night, Attorney General Barr claimed that Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was “stepping down.” A short time later, Mr. Berman revealed that the Attorney General was lying and that he was not, in fact, stepping down. Over the past two days, this sordid, ham-handed plot by President Trump and Attorney General Barr to oust a well-respected US Attorney played out in public view.

But for Mr. Berman’s principled stand, the White House and the DOJ would have subverted the chain of succession at the SDNY to install a pliant U.S. Attorney from New Jersey in Mr. Berman’s place. Thankfully, due to Mr. Berman’s courage that plan was thwarted, and Mr. Berman’s deputy will take over leadership of the Southern District and continue its important work. She has a fine reputation as a prosecutor and someone of integrity. People of integrity don’t seem to be welcome in this administration.

Then the DOJ announced that the President intended to nominate the sitting SEC Chairman, Jay Clayton, to replace Mr. Berman. As the Senator from New York, I will not return a blue slip on Mr. Clayton’s nomination. But regardless, Jay Clayton should withdraw his name from consideration and refuse to be an accomplice to this scheme.

There appears to have been no legitimate motive to fire Mr. Berman, which leaves the obvious question: were President Trump and the Attorney General trying to remove him for a corrupt motive? Was it because Mr. Berman and the Southern District of New York were pursuing criminal investigations into President Trump and his associates? The president certainly has a pattern of firing government watchdogs who are investigating his misconduct or that of his associates.

We need an immediate, top-to-bottom investigation into what transpired with the plot to dismiss Mr. Berman.

So I’ve demanded that the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Dept. of Justice work with the Justice Department’s Inspector General to determine whether there were corrupt motives for Mr. Berman’s dismissal, and if so, discipline the officials involved, no matter who they are or how high up they go. These two offices jointly investigated the firing of US Attorneys in 2006, during the Bush Administration, and should do so again.

The Judiciary Committee here in the Senate, led by Chairman Graham, must also investigate what happened here, using its subpoena power if necessary. Senator Graham seems to be investigating President Obama, Vice President Biden—53 subpoenas. He certainly must have time to investigate a serious problem that has come before us right now.

After all, the abject refusal of Senate Republicans to hold President Trump accountable for his assault on the rule of law in the country is what got us here in the first place. Senate Republicans refused to stand up to the president when he fired the FBI Director for investigating his campaign. They refused to stand up to the president when he made up a national emergency in order to steal funds for a border wall. They refused to stand up to the president when he dismissed not one or two or three, but four inspectors general. And they refused to stand up to President Trump when he tried to bully a foreign power into helping him in his re-election.

Every time the President breaks a window, the Senate Republican majority dutifully sweeps up the glass.

Every blue moon or so, a Republican Senator will issue a mild rebuke of the president’s behavior or pen a strongly-worded letter. But the response is never commensurate with the offense, and as a result, President Trump knows there’s no line he cannot cross. He and his Attorney General can fire a sitting US Attorney without cause, perhaps for investigating criminal wrongdoing by the president or his associates, and Senate Republicans will hardly bat an eye. Will Republican Senators ever say: “enough”?

###