Those prosecutors, who had put Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen in prison, were in court Tuesday to oversee the trial of another politically tinged defendant, Michael Avenatti, the celebrity lawyer who has claimed Trump as his nemesis. For them, the prospect of interference in sensitive cases carries particularly high stakes.
And beyond New York, the Stone situation has reverberated across the country in the past few days, with prosecutors incensed over the apparent intervention by Attorney General William Barr to lighten the sentencing recommendation for Trump’s ally, along with fear of what some perceive as a growing political directive coming from Washington.
On the West Coast, one federal prosecutor said there was an overwhelming sense of “outrage” felt in his office.
A prosecutor on the East Coast voiced concern about the potential impact of political interference on juries and judges, who could perceive that cases aren’t being brought objectively.
And a former prosecutor said his clients have expressed concern about cooperating with investigations out of fear that the Justice Department could interfere improperly in a case, putting them in jeopardy.
On the Pro-Trump and Pro Barr side
Elsewhere, in Connecticut, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, the US attorney’s offices have picked up investigations that are in line with what the President has wanted, looking into the origins of the investigation into the 2016 election, examining the Ukraine dealings of the son of Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and reviewing the Michael Flynn prosecution.
A career prosecutor in the rural Northwest said she has faith in Barr and wishes Trump would get out of his way. "He’s not a rookie. He knows what he’s doing," she said of the attorney general. “Let him do his job.”
New York is ground zero
Manhattan prosecutors have also generated cases that are of concern to Trump personally, including the prosecution of Cohen and an investigation of the Trump Organization that ended without charges.
And for the past few months, prosecutors there have been investigating Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, as well as Trump’s inaugural committee.
Still, despite the alarm sounded in recent days, Southern District of New York prosecutors believe that their leader, Geoffrey Berman, has defended the office’s relative autonomy, particularly since Barr’s arrival, according to people familiar with the matter.
Barr, these people said, has attempted to micromanage certain cases, asking more questions and for more frequent updates than his predecessors on matters from Berman.
Berman has bristled at those demands, according to these people, and has repeatedly pushed for actions on certain politically sensitive cases in opposition to Justice Department leadership, most notably the indictment in October of the state-owned Turkish bank, Halkbank.
According to a person familiar with the discussions, Barr personally spearheaded an effort last year to negotiate a settlement with the bank that would have allowed it to sidestep an indictment after Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pressed Trump in a bid to avoid charges. Berman, however, insisted on criminal prosecution, according to the people familiar with the matter.
There are questions however swirling around SDNY’s Geoffrey Berman, and whether he is indeed a T loyalist. This back-and-forth on whether this bank should have been prosecuted was one thing, but pundits are questioning Berman’s role in the Les Parnas/Igor Furnass indictment…and suggest they were framed as scapegoats to cover for Giuliani.
I will list this lawyer’s viewpoint, who really feels that Berman is too aligned with Barr. Remember, Barr visited SDNY the day before these two were arrested, so if ever there was an ‘all in’ signal, this is it.
Thread on Geoffrey Berman