Attorney General Bill Barr will testify before the House Judiciary Committee next month, his spokeswoman said, as part of the Democratic-led investigation into the “unprecedented politicization” of the Justice Department under the Trump administration.
“The Attorney General has accepted an invitation to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a general oversight hearing on July 28,” DOJ spokeswomen Kerri Kupec tweeted Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., earlier this week threatened to subpoena Barr and compel his testimony after he fired U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman over the weekend.
"We have begun the process to issue that subpoena," Nadler said Monday night on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show.”
The move comes as top congressional Democrats are calling for new probes and hearings concerning the Justice Department after Berman's ouster over the weekend.
Nadler previously said his panel would “immediately open an investigation” into the removal. President Trump apparently fired Berman after he refused to step down, though the president has since distanced himself from the process.
“Attorney General Bill Barr told us that Geoffrey Berman of the SDNY had resigned—which was untrue,” Nadler said in a statement. “Barr told us that the president asked him to fire Mr. Berman—which may also be untrue, given that the president says he had nothing to do with the decision.”
Nadler added: “The whole thing smacks of corruption and incompetence, which is what we have come to expect from this President and his Attorney General.”
Nadler noted that neither the White House nor the Justice Department offered an explanation for Berman’s removal.
“We know that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is engaged in investigations aimed at President Trump’s inner circle,” Nadler said. “We know, from revelations earlier this week, that the President wanted to have ‘his own people’ in that office to help him with his personal and political needs. And we know that, time and time again, Bill Barr has reached into ongoing criminal investigations in order to protect the President from their consequences.”
Meanwhile, Nadler issued subpoenas last week for Justice Department officials Aaron S.J. Zelinsky and John W. Elias, who had filed complaints about the “unprecedented politicization” at the DOJ under Barr’s leadership. Both testified before the panel on Wednesday.
The calls to probe Berman’s ouster come after Barr, on Friday night, announced that he would be stepping down from his post at SDNY. Barr and the White House then announced that the president would nominate Jay Clayton, the current chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to replace him.
But Berman put out a statement saying he learned of his “departure” from Barr’s press release and had no intention of leaving the job.
By Saturday, Barr, in a letter to Berman, informed him that the president had removed him from his post. Barr wrote that he asked Trump to fire Berman after his Friday night statement.
Barr said Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss will take over until a permanent successor is in place.
Berman said he would leave "immediately" and expressed strong confidence that Strauss can lead the SDNY with integrity and independence.
Trump, however, distanced himself from Berman's ouster Saturday as he left the White House for Tulsa, Okla., and said it was Barr's call.
"That's all up to the attorney general," Trump said when asked about Berman's firing. "Attorney General Barr is working on that. That's his department, not my department.”
The Southern District has pursued a number of Trump associates, including the president's former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who served a prison sentence for lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes. The office has also been investigating Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent, people familiar with the probe told The Associated Press.
Berman recused himself from directly overseeing the Cohen investigation for reasons that were never disclosed.
Berman has also overseen the prosecution of two Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were associates of Giuliani and tied to the Ukraine impeachment investigation. The men were charged in October with federal campaign finance violations, including hiding the origin of a $325,000 donation to a group supporting Trump’s reelection.
Fox News' Marisa Schultz, Jake Gibson, Ben Florance and the Associated Press contributed to this report.