Reuters . June 21, 2020, 3:35 PM GMT+2
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr deserves to be impeached over the firing of a federal prosecutor whose office had investigated President Donald Trump’s lawyer but the effort would be a “waste of time,” a leading Democratic lawmaker said on Sunday.
Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary chairman who helped lead a House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into Trump last year, told CNN’s “State of the Union” the Republican-led Senate would block any such effort.
“I think he deserves impeachment. He certainly deserves impeachment. But again, that’s a waste of time because the Republicans in the Senate won’t look at that and we have, we have other ways of getting at this,” Nadler said.
Nadler said his panel would investigate Trump’s firing of prosecutor Geoffrey Berman on Saturday after an extraordinary standoff over the independence of one of the country’s most important federal prosecutor’s office. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York has not shied from taking on figures in Trump’s orbit and has been investigating his private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
The firing of Berman was the latest in a series of moves by Barr that critics say are meant to benefit Trump politically and undermine the independence of the Justice Department.
Nadler said he has asked Berman to testify in the Judiciary Committee’s investigation of political interference at the Justice Department.
The panel is holding a hearing on Wednesday with whistleblowers from the department. Nadler did not know if Berman would be there that day, “but I’m sure he will testify.”
The dispute with Berman began late Friday when Barr announced Berman was stepping down and would be replaced by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton. Berman refused to step down until the Senate confirmed his successor, and said his office’s investigations would continue.
Only after Barr backtracked from his plan to hand pick the acting U.S. attorney, allowing Berman’s deputy Audrey Strauss to take the reins, did Berman agree to step down on Saturday.
Some Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, have called for Barr’s impeachment. The Senate would never vote for that so “we’re instead going to do what we have to do without that,” Nadler said, citing his move to cut $50 million in funding for Barr’s department.
A group of 135 former federal prosecutors issued a statement on Saturday blasting Trump and Barr for Berman’s firing. “They are politicizing an office that for more than 200 years has remained apolitical, and are undermining confidence in our criminal justice system,” the statement said.
Republican Senator Tim Scott on Sunday played down concerns that Clayton, a former Wall Street lawyer, might try to neuter investigations related to Trump and his businesses. “There is no indication that those investigations will stop,” Scott said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Deutsche Bank AG was among Clayton’s clients at law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, according to a form filed with the Office of Government Ethics when Clayton was the SEC nominee.
The bank, one of the largest creditors for Trump’s hotels, golf courses and other properties, itself remains under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Michele Price, Karen Freifeld and Nathan Layne; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)