The new book from Geoffrey Berman, a former U.S. attorney in the Trump administration, has caused a stir for a reason: The Republican prosecutor has presented powerful evidence that the Republican administration politicized the Justice Department to an indefensible degree.
There is a degree of irony to the circumstances: As the Biden White House’s GOP critics make up weird allegations about weaponized law enforcement, it’s Donald Trump and his team who’ve been credibly accused of actually doing the one thing Republicans are complaining about now.
The relevance of the revelations, however, is not entirely retrospective. The New York Times reported overnight:
The Senate Judiciary Committee will investigate allegations that the Justice Department under President Donald J. Trump sought to use the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan to support Mr. Trump politically and pursue his critics, the committee’s chairman said on Monday.
According to a letter obtained by “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin formally requested information from Attorney General Merrick Garland, specifically referencing allegations from Berman’s book.
“These reported claims indicate astonishing and unacceptable deviations from the department’s mission to pursue impartial justice, which requires that its prosecutorial decisions be free from political influence,” the Illinois Democrat wrote.
It raises the prospect of upcoming Senate hearings in which the Judiciary Committee will consider these allegations in detail — and in ways that might prove illuminating to the panel’s Republican members, if they’re willing to listen.
What’s unambiguously clear, however, is the seriousness of Berman’s claims. As Rachel explained on the show last night, the former U.S. attorney — a longtime Republican lawyer, a Trump donor, and an official who served on Trump’s presidential transition team — has firsthand knowledge of Team Trump pressing prosecutors to pursue cases based solely on partisan considerations.
Indeed, Berman’s book paints a picture of the nightmare scenario in a country that takes the rule of law seriously: A corrupt president and his team tried to force prosecutors to target perceived political foes, while helping political allies, without regard for merit or justice. Those who resisted — or put another way, those who did their jobs properly — were fired.
In some instances, such as Michael Cohen’s prosecution, this meant taking improper steps to shield the then-president directly.
Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wrote via Twitter:
“Using government power to persecute political opponents is something we have seen many times from 3rd world Marxist dictatorships
“But never before in America.”
As we’ve discussed, the Florida Republican was complaining, of course, about the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago — which in no way reflected corruption — though Rubio had no comparable concerns when Trump actually tried desperately to use government power to persecute his political opponents. That’s not my opinion; it’s the assessment from a U.S. attorney who’d been named by Trump himself.
If you missed Rachel’s interview last night with Berman, it’s well worth your time.