Senate to probe claims Trump pushed DOJ to prosecute critics

(NewsNation) — The Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating allegations that Trump-era Justice Department officials pressured federal prosecutors to support the former president and pursue his critics while he was in office.

The claims of misconduct are outlined in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland sent by chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, who cites a New York Times article detailing an upcoming book by former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. He served in the Southern District of New York for more than two years before being fired in 2020.

Berman, according to the Times article, says a Justice Department official asked him in September 2018 to prosecute former White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig to “even things out” after the prosecution of two Trump loyalists. Berman rejected the request, though Craig, who served under President Barack Obama, was later prosecuted in Washington and acquitted.

“These reported claims indicate astonishing and unacceptable deviation from the Department’s mission to pursue impartial justice, which requires that its prosecutorial decision be free from political influence,” Durbin wrote in the letter to Garland.

Berman also claims that DOJ officials pressured him to remove references to former President Donald Trump from charging documents for Michael Cohen, one of Trump’s former personal lawyers. Cohen was convicted in a hush-money scheme in which he paid off two women to remain silent about affairs they claimed they had with Trump.

The Senate committee is also seeking communications about allegations that the Justice Department asked Berman to investigate former Secretary of State John Kerry for violations of the Logan Act. When Berman refused, Attorney General Bill Barr went to prosecutors in Maryland, who also declined, Durbin’s letter says.

The committee has given the Justice Department a deadline of Oct. 3 to provide communications about all three of the alleged instances of political inference.