Impeaching U.S. Attorney General Barr 'waste of time', top Democrat Nadler says
By Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Attorney General William Barr deserves to be charged with firing a federal attorney whose office had examined President Donald Trump's attorney, but the effort would be "a waste of time," a leading Democratic lawmaker said Sunday.
Justice chief Jerrold Nadler, who headed a House impeachment investigation against Trump last year, told CNN's State of the Union that the Republican-led Senate would block such efforts.
"I think he deserved impeachment. He certainly deserved impeachment. But that is also a waste of time because the Republicans in the Senate don't look into it and we have other ways of doing it," said Nadler.
Nadler said his panel will investigate Trump's dismissal from prosecutor Geoffrey Berman on Saturday after he made extraordinary statements about the independence of one of the country's major law firms. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York has been reluctant to take Trump's orbit numbers and has investigated his private attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Berman's dismissal was the latest in a series of measures by Barr that Trump said are politically beneficial and are said to undermine the Justice Department's independence.
Nadler said he asked Berman to testify in the Justice Committee's investigation into political interference in the Department of Justice.
The panel will hold a hearing with department whistleblowers on Wednesday. Nadler didn't know if Berman would be there that day, "but I'm sure he'll testify."
The dispute with Berman began late Friday when Barr announced that Berman would step down and be replaced by Jay Clayton, chairman of the US stock exchange regulator. Berman refused to resign until the Senate confirmed his successor and said the investigation of his office would continue.
Only after Barr resigned from his plan to hand pick the incumbent US attorney and take over the reins of Berman's deputy Audrey Strauss did Berman agree to resign on Saturday.
Some democratic lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, have demanded Barr's impeachment. The Senate would never vote for it, so "instead we'll do what we have to do without it," said Nadler, referring to his move to cut funds for Barr's department by $ 50 million.
A group of 135 former federal prosecutors issued a statement on Saturday blowing up Trump and Barr over Berman's release. "They politicize an office that has been apolitical for more than 200 years and undermine trust in our criminal justice system," the statement said.
Republican Senator Tim Scott downplayed concerns on Sunday that Clayton, a former Wall Street lawyer, could try to neutralize an investigation into Trump and his businesses. "There is no indication that this investigation will be terminated," Scott said in ABC's "This Week".
Deutsche Bank AG was one of Clayton's clients at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. This resulted in a form that was submitted to the Office of Government Ethics when Clayton was the SEC candidate.
The bank, one of the largest creditors for Trump's hotels, golf courses, and other real estate, continues to be investigated 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)
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