Justice Department pressured former US attorney to bring cases against Trump enemies, Geoffrey Berman says

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Geoffrey Berman, who served 2 1/2 years as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2018 to 2020, said the Justice Department pressured him and his office to pursue criminal cases against perceived enemies of former President Donald Trump, including former Secretary of State John Kerry.

"I had never seen anything like that before," Berman told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in his first interview about his new book, "Holding the Line: Inside the Nation's Preeminent US Attorney's Office and its Battle with the Trump Justice Department." "People who had been in the office for 40 years never saw anything like that. It was unprecedented and scary."

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Berman described a tenure under Attorney Generals Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker rife with politics and constant interference, pressuring him to remove references to Individual-1, aka Donald Trump, in the case against Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer.

"On the eve of Cohen's guilty plea, main Justice tried to get our office to remove any reference to Individual-1, who was President Trump. They were unsuccessful in that venture. And they were unsuccessful in every attempt to politically interfere with our office. We held the line in every instance," Berman told ABC's "Good Morning America."

PHOTO: Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference, April 23, 2019, in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference, April 23, 2019, in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP, FILE)

Berman said his office was urged to bring charges against Kerry for violations of the Logan Act -- which makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to take part in unauthorized foreign diplomacy -- over Kerry's discussions about the Iran nuclear agreement.

"That was truly outrageous," Berman said.

No charges were ever brought against Kerry.

"President Trump attacks John Kerry in two tweets saying that Kerry engaged in possible illegal conversations with Iranian officials regarding the Iran nuclear deal. The very next day, the Trump Justice Department refers the John Kerry criminal case to the Southern District of New York. Two tweets by the president and the John Kerry criminal case becomes a priority," Berman said.

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Berman wrote that the Justice Department asked him to "even things out" by prosecuting a Democrat after his office successfully prosecuted former Republican Congressman Chris Collins.

"The Justice Department told us, 'Hey, you have just indicted two allies of the president, Chris Collins, who is a Republican congressman from upstate New York, and Michael Cohen, who was the president's lawyer and fixer, and it's time for you guys to even things out and indict a Democrat before the midterm election,'" Berman said. "It was something we never heard or seen before."

Berman was asked repeatedly to resign by Barr, he said, with the then-attorney general announcing Berman had resigned on June 19, 2020. He denied he had resigned but ended a brief standoff with the administration by announcing he would leave his role at U.S. attorney a day later.

Berman's book comes out Tuesday.

ABC's Aaron Katersky reports:

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