Ousted NY prosecutor tells panel Barr 'urged' him to resign

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Geoffrey Berman, former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, arrives for a closed door meeting with House Judiciary Committee, Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON – The ousted U.S. attorney who was leading investigations into President Donald Trump's allies told the House Judiciary panel on Thursday that Attorney General William Barr “repeatedly urged” him to resign during a hastily arranged meeting that sheds light on the extraordinary standoff surrounding his departure.

Geoffrey Berman, the former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, provided the committee with a detailed account behind closed doors of three days in June as he was pushed out, according to his opening statement, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Berman said Barr, over a 45-minute session at the Pierre Hotel in New York, “pressed” him to step aside and take on a new job heading up the Justice Department's Civil Division so the administration could install Jay Clayton, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to the top prosecutor post in Manhattan.

“I told the attorney general that I was not interested,” Berman told the panel.

Berman explained, "There were important investigations in the office that I wanted to see through to completion." He told Barr that, while he liked Clayton, he viewed the SEC commissioner as “an unqualified choice" for the job.

“He had had no criminal experience,” Berman said.

When Barr warned that if he didn't go, he would be fired, "I told him that while I did not want to get fired, I would not resign,” Berman said.

The Judiciary Committee interview, which is being transcribed for public release later, comes as the panel deepens its probe of politicization at the Justice Department.