Attorney General Bill Barr defended himself against allegations of mendacity in an interview with ABC, offering his view of what led to the firing of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman.
Barr said that “even if one were interested in trying to influence a case you wouldn’t do it by removing … the head of the office.”
“That’s simply not how the Southern District of New York or the Department as a whole operates,” the attorney general added. “So it’s actually ludicrous and I felt it was just simply not a plausible basis for not making a change there.”
Berman testified to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that Barr had pushed him out with the aim of delaying investigations that SDNY is conducting.
Initially, Barr wanted to replace Berman with an attorney from outside the office — a highly irregular move. In issuing a press release last month disputing a statement from Barr saying that he had resigned, Berman pointedly noted that investigations at his office would continue.
In the interview, Barr denied that he had been misleading in issuing a statement saying that Berman had resigned.
Instead, the attorney general opted to dispute the meaning of the phrase “stepped down.”
“I don’t know what he’s describing,” Barr said, referring to Berman’s allegation that Barr lied in saying that Berman had resigned. “It was not misleading. Stepping down is a term that we use. It’s ambiguous as to what the basis for it is.”
“We said he was stepping down which is usually the language we use in these — in these kinds of announcements,” Barr addd. “But it left open the possibility that once he saw that he was leaving the position, that he’d be interested in figuring out other alternatives.”
Barr argued more broadly that he hadn’t interfered in federal criminal cases for political reasons.
“I’d like to hear some examples of people we’ve charged that they think were unrighteous cases to bring,” Barr said.