68 mins

The Problem Podcast

A Former US Attorney on How Trump Politicized the DOJ

Jon is joined by Geoffrey Berman, a former US attorney from the Southern District of New York—and author of the new book Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department. They dig into how Bill Barr tried to have Berman fired, why nailing down powerful guys like Trump is so hard, and whether better guardrails could protect our democracy.


A Former US Attorney on How Trump Politicized the DOJ

EP 211 Final Transcript

Zach: So you should hear it through the cans.

Jon: Oh OK.

Zach: If you hold them, if you hold them tight enough against your ears.

Jon: I am hearing the ocean. That’s–that’s-that’s weird.


Jon: Hello everybody. Uh, welcome to the podcast. The Problem with me, Jon Stewart, the TV show also back on Apple TV+ for season two on October 7th. Oh my God. That’s almost now! Uh, and if you haven’t seen the first season, you can look at that too. There’s a link, I guess for it. Today, we got a great show. We’re gonna obviously gonna be talking to a couple of our writers. Today we have Jay Jurden and Tocarra Mallard are gonna be talking to us and our guest Geoffrey Berman. Uh, he’s a former US attorney for the Southern District of New York. The author of “Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department.” Uh, basically he got fired. Let go for not bending to the politicization of the DOJ. He’s a Republican, by the way. F***ing crazy. Jay and Tocarra, are you there? 

Jay: Yeah, what’s up?

Tocarra: We’re here!

Jon: Oh my God’s sakes. I got, I panicked. Our guest today, let me tell you guys something, I grew up two houses away from this guy. It was my house, then the Goldmans, and then the Berman’s. We lived in the-the Jewish shtetl. 

Tocarra: Oh my God. 

Jon: In-in Lawrence township, the, we were, we were the four families. [JAY LAUGHS] The four families lived there. Occasionally we get together and break, uh, matzo together. It was delicious. Uh, so he is gonna be fun. It’s an incredibly interesting book, but also I’m excited to see him again. He was a couple years older than me.

Jay: This is your life, Jon Stewart.

Tocarra: Yeah.

Jay: The next guest is a childhood friend.

Tocarra: Little family reunion.

Jon: Let me tell you something. From now on, I only interview people from the neighborhood. I’m like Scorsese. I do films and I interview people from the neighborhood. How are you guys doing? What do you guys got today? What’s what’s on your, what’s cooking in your heads. 

Jay: OK. Are you ready for some —

Jon: Jay.

Jay: —some crazy righteous outrage?

Jon: Jay. I am ready for that.

Tocarra: Um, I’ve got some news straight outta my home state, the sunshine state. What’s up? 727 represent.

Jon: What. What what.

Tocarra: OK. Ron DeSantis. 

Jon: Yes.

Tocarra: In a bid to own the libs and step outta Trump’s shadow, decided to trick some asylum seekers —

Jon: Ah, yes, yes, yes.

Tocarra: — into getting on a plane and going to Martha’s Vineyard. We have to talk about it.

Jon: The first thing I thought was, you know, after Labor Day, it’s really just working class people —

Tocarra: 100%

Jon: — trying to fix the damage that’s been done over the summer season.

Jay: That’s what Tocarra said. Tocarra said “Do you wanna bother fishermen?” 

Jon: It’s fishermen and crafts people. 

Tocarra: Uh, so the-the population is over the summers, it’s like over a hundred thousand. But then off season, it shrinks to 20,000, people who are literally trying to fix their beaches, get their wears together, go out and fish.

Jon: But maybe that’s DeSantis point.

Tocarra: Absolutely. 

Jon: Maybe there’s a lot of vacancies up there and he’s thinking, “Well, I’ll send some people up there.” Clearly the island has room now. 

Jay: Oh, yes. Well, the craziest part about this is technically- 

Jon: Mm-hmm 

Jay: -did he human traffic these people? These people, not these like faceless brown masses.

Jon: Right.

Jay: Did each one of these individuals get coerced to go on a plane to Martha’s Vineyard. That’s crazy.

Jon: Not for nothing. Matha’s Vineyard is pretty nice. Like, I’m assuming that if they were in a thing or give even if they were lied to- look, isn’t the larger point this? We don’t have a functioning system for people who are either immigrating or seeking asylum. And so in the chaos of that system, I understand, uh, he doesn’t have the empathy or compassion that these are human beings and that their lives are already chaotic and turned upside down. And he doesn’t really give a f*** as far as he’s concerned. It’s like when a mayor loses a bet to another mayor and has to send him 50 pounds of sausage, he couldn’t even care less. 

Jay: Yeah. 

Jon: Uh, about these lives. But unfortunately the underlying principle of this, the chaos of the American immigration system is absolutely a disgrace.

Tocarra: Absolutely. And I think we could acknowledge that. Um— 

Jon: Yes.

Tocarra: But not doing like reverse freedom rides. Like this is the height of the 1960s.

Jon: No, you’re right. But what are the people we supposedly believe are doing this right? How are they treating these immigrants?

Jay: I think the big difference with this case though, is the memification, the gotcha aspect of —

Tocarra: The owning the libs.

Jay: It’s someone who really wants this to go viral. Whenever policy is just you trolling people—

Jon: Right.

Jay: And these were people who were in Texas. That’s the other thing.

Jon: Yeah. That, that I never even understood.

Jay: The country has a history of putting non-white people on vessels and going, “Yeah, yeah it’ll be fun when you get wherever you’re headed.” 

Tocarra: Oh my God. “Yes. This all started with slave labor. Turn with me to your textbooks.”

Jon: That was not allowed to be taught at my school. So I don’t even know what that was. 

Jay: Ohhh.

Tocarra: Ohhh.

Jon: If that’s that CRT, I don’t want any part of it. Well, it’s very obvious at this point that the path to Republican power lies in dickishness. And there, I don’t know that there is a political platform or an ideology other than dickishness. And, uh, you know, this stunt did exactly what he wanted it to do, which is jumped his profile. 

Tocarra: Mm-hmm.

Jon: Uh, made him a hero amongst those, uh, for whom Dickishness is one of the sole characteristics that they’re looking for in their leaders. Uh, it probably angered Trump because “Nobody’s gonna be a bigger dick than me.” Like this is going to be, imagine the season that we’re in. Where they are trying to one up each other in utter cruelty and that’s going to be the thing. And this country does a s***ty job of taking care of the people that are already here. So there is a much larger issue here of cooperation and consideration. Clearly though, can’t we have a sane immigration policy that doesn’t rely on the demonization?

Jay: Yeah. 

Jon: Like, is that really beyond our grasp?

Jay: And the, and the kind of subterfuge and the coercion aspect of it. If you are actively coercing people, then you’ve put yourself in legal peril, you have this dishonest system. So you’re taking advantage of something that’s already broken instead of trying to fix it.

Jon: Jay what’s easier? Is it easier to govern and solve problems or is it easier to meme? 

Tocarra: Jay made a great point. It’s the memification of politics. 

Jon: Boom.

Tocarra: I mean, they gave Fox News the heads up, but didn’t notify any local officials. So talk to me about that.

Jon: Yeah, man. 

Tocarra: What?

Jon: Because they don’t give a f***. They don’t give a f***.

Jay: They, but they give a f*** in the way that they go “Did I get eyes?”

Jon: This is about their brand. 

Jay: Yeah. “Did I get eyes on it?”

Tocarra: That’s right.

Jay: “Did people see this happen?”

Jon: What’s the brand now about? Immigration is, uh, outta control. They found groups of people that they can demonize and that their base gets excited about. And so it’s all about finding a way to amplify their brand at the expense of real people and real problems that are solvable. 

Jay: Yes.

Jon: Solvable.

Jay: Or at least you could have a discussion concerning these things. You —

Jon: No, no, no. 

Jay: They would end up — 

Jon: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. 

Jay: Well —

Jon: “Democrats want open borders and they want teach your children about anilingus.”


Tocarra: Oh my god.

Jay: That’s what they want. They want open borders and an anilingus!

Jay: Well, Jon, if you’re talking about the Southern border being open, anilingus. 

Tocarra: Yikes. 


Jay: We’ve kinda walked into that.

Tocarra: Well… Jay, you did it. 

Jon: So now what you’re gonna have is a moment of media attention, unless the queen dies again next week but, [JAY LAUGHS] and she may, we don’t know how long that’s gonna go, but so you have a moment of attention in that moment, isn’t that an opportunity? An opportunity to bring a sane conversation or policy to this rather than just the all they’re covering is the showbiz aspect of it.

Tocarra: What you just said, Jon, like that doesn’t sound interesting. I don’t want sanity. 

Jon: Tocarra!

Tocarra: I don’t want wisdom.

Jay: Yeah. 

Tocarra: I want great ratings.

Jay: Jon we can’t retweet what you just said. 

Tocarra: Exactly. That’s not tweetable at all. Abbott got 300 plus segments on Fox News just talking about this busing stunt. You know what that —

Jon: How many?

Tocarra: Over 300 segments on Fox.

Jon: Wow.

Jay: Do you understand how many catheters he sold, Jon? You need to get your s*** together.

Tocarra: So they’re like, “Oh, that’s gonna move some units on some catheters we can’t talk about —”

Jay: And sunsetter awnings, we have so many products that we’re so happy to display.

Jon: Do you have any hope that some of this in its, you know, there’s that initial pop and like you owned them and you f***ing got ’em, but that there will be some consideration. When the dust settles of, “Oh, these are human beings and we are failing in this system.”

Jay: The saving grace of all of this is that Greg Abbott, Ron DeSantis. They’re all auditioning for second. Like when big daddy comes home —

Jon: Yeah.

Jay: — You gonna have to get out of his La-Z-Boy and get him the big piece of chicken the minute, the minute —

Jon: So this is all in fealty to, uh, the new Trump mandate of showbiz and dickishness.

Tocarra: 100%. Even Trump came out and said that Ron DeSantis stole his idea. [JON LAUGHS] So now you have kids going up being like DeSantis is trying to beat Trump. So it’s happening already.

Jon: These guys are like f***ing comics now. [TOCARRA LAUGHS] So now it’s all about like this. “Hey, this guy, this Carlos Mencia, this Dane Cook. They’re stealing my s***. They’re stealing my essence.”

Jay: Jon, Jon. OK. I’m not pointing fingers, but tell me if this sounds familiar. Just tell— 

Jon: Yes. 

Jay: Just tell me if someone’s done this before, please. 

Jon: Yes. Oh God. 

Jay: And I’m like, yeah. You know, who did it? The Amsterdam Trading Company in 1619. That’s who did it.

Jon: Snap. 

Tocarra: Another hot one. 

Jon: Yeah. That is another hot one. This is just a continuation and now look at us bringing it all together with the Queen’s funeral. This is just colonization [LAUGHTER] and exploitation and all the aspects of what is ultimately the —

Jay: Power.

Jon: —exploitation of resources. 

Tocarra: Absolutely. 

Jon: That aren’t yours. Boom. 

Tocarra: And a lack of accountability as well. 

Jon: Well, there’s never a, when is there acc-, I mean, that gets us to what we’re doing today. I mean, how many f***ing, how, how good are we at throwing people in jail? It’s the best thing we do in this. We’re better than any country in the world. And yet all you hear about with these things is every time I get another piece of information, like if that’s not obstruction of justice, then there is no obstruction of justice. And you related all to that poor kid who jumped a turnstile and got sent to Rikers island for six months and ultimately ended up killing himself. 

Tocarra: Yeah. 

Jon: Like if that’s the calibration on our justice system, boy, we don’t really have a justice system. There doesn’t seem to be any clear, fair application of the law when you have political power and resources. So I’m gonna get to the guest. I’m gonna bring on, uh, young Geoffrey Barman. We’re gonna talk to him and then we’ll come and we’ll wrap it up there. So thank you guys both very much.

Interview with Geoffrey Berman Begins

Jon: Welcome.

Geoffrey Berman: Hi.

Jon: Our guest Geoffrey Berman, author of ”Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department.” Uh, we are gonna talk a little bit about the main accusations in the book that, uh, that Trump was trying to use the justice department, like kind of a personal, uh, law firm, but there’s an awful lot to talk about with our guest Geoffrey Berman. Not the least of which is this. I could’ve thrown a rock when I was growing up and hit Geoffrey Berman’s house with it. We lived what? A hundred feet from each other? 

Geoffrey Berman: That’s right. That’s right 

Jon: Now, Geoffrey you’re uh, two years older than I am. 

Geoffrey Berman: Right. 

Jon: And you did not go, I went to Lawrence high school, which is the public school. You went to the better school?

Geoffrey Berman: Well, I went to Lawrence high school for a couple years and then transferred to the school that your brother went to Lawrence —

Jon: Lawrenceville Prep. Yeah. Yeah. He was. You were, I think you were in his grade. 

Geoffrey Berman: Yeah, we were together. He was a very smart guy 

Jon: That see, I, I had the same problem with him. He was a very smart guy. I didn’t care for that growing up. 

Geoffrey Berman: You gotta accept it. And by at this point, I think you can get over it. 

Jon: You know what it was, it was, he would come home with like silver trophies for his Latin score. And, and I, I thought, well, this guy is so smart. I’m clearly gonna have to go in a different direction. And I think it led me, uh, to where I am. Now, your older brother, Michael, how, how much older was Michael? 

Geoffrey Berman: Michael’s two years older than me 

Jon: Then you, and then your younger brother, Danny? 

Geoffrey Berman: And Danny was four years younger than me. And two years younger than you. And we were, you know, right across the street, the Goldmans were in between us 

Jon: and the Litowitz-

Geoffrey Berman: and the Litowitz! You know, I once… 

Jon: He was a judge!

Geoffrey Berman: He was a judge and, you know, um, I had a play, I was practicing with, uh, golf clubs when I was a teenager.

Jon: OK. 

Geoffrey Berman: And, you know, he had the wiffle golf balls. Right. And, they weren’t going anywhere. They were going like five feet, And so without permission from my parents, I took out a real golf ball. and I let it go. And it smashed the Litowitz’s big plate window. I don’t know if you remember that. Huge.

Jon: Sure. I remember it.

Geoffrey Berman: And so I know I did what only, you know, what any kid would do is I immediately like ran in the house and hid. And you know, the judge comes out, the judge comes out, holding the ball, you know, looking for who did it. And, you know, ultimately I think my mother got involved.

Jon: The picture window at the Litowitz’s house was the envy of the neighborhood. It was, uh, a large luxurious picture window. What people don’t understand is we lived in like Little Haifa. There were these four Jewish families that all lived cater-cornered from each other. And then surrounded by basically Lawrence township which was mostly Italian, Irish. 

Geoffrey Berman: It was blue collar.

Jon: Blue collar, uh, African American. And then there were like these four Jewish families who lived in like the Warsaw area of Lawrence township. Uh, Judge Litowitz was obviously the, uh, superstar of the, uh, area. And then, uh, everyone else was school teachers. I, I imagine. Uh, the Goldmans and, 

Geoffrey Berman: And my mother was a school teacher.

Jon: And my mother was a school teacher as well. But we didn’t really see you ‘cause you went to that, uh, Lawrenceville prep with my brother and where did Danny go?

Geoffrey Berman: He went to Lawrenceville. Neither of my brothers went into comedy. We all, you know, uh, went to Lawrenceville. 

Jon: My mother makes it very clear; you know, the Berman kids, all very successful.

Geoffrey Berman: Well, you know, and your brother. So, my older brother, Michael is a big time publisher. He co-founder George Magazine.

Jon: George Magazine.

Geoffrey Berman: And Daniel, uh, bought a bunch of radio and TV stations in the south and he’s very successful. 

Jon: Oh my God. He’s the Rupert Murdoch of Southern whatever. The Confederacy.

Geoffrey Berman: worse, worse than. And you know, Larry is extremely successful.

Jon: He– he did very well. I don’t ask him what he does. He doesn’t ask what I do. And we just go along…

Geoffrey Berman: My whole family we were watching when you received the Mark Twain award.

Jon: Yes. 

Geoffrey Berman: And, um, you know, because we wanted to see you know, your whole family was there. 

Jon: You wanted to see– My mom was there, my brother 

Geoffrey Berman: and I just wanted to let you know that we just wanna congratulate you on that.

Jon: Uh, thank you so much. This is, uh, our new, uh, Hanukkah podcast. It’s, we’re just gonna go over all the holidays. But I wanna talk about what you’re doing. The Southern District of New York is sort of a legendary, uh, I guess, I don’t know what they call attorney uh, jurisdictions. It’s a —

Geoffrey Berman: It’s a district of a State and it’s the Southern District of New York.

 Jon: But why is the Southern District office considered so legendary? Is it because it’s downstate and it’s in Manhattan. So you have to deal with whether it be Cosa Nostra or, or these kind of terrorist cases.

Geoffrey Berman: That’s exactly right. 

Jon: That’s it.

Geoffrey Berman: We’re at the hub. We’re at the foot of Wall Street.

Jon: Alright. 

Geoffrey Berman: No financial crimes can be really committed in the entire United States without some of the money running through Wall Street so we’ve got jurisdiction over that. 

Jon: Mm-hmm 

Geoffrey Berman: Unfortunately we have the history with the terrorism cases. So we have one of the finest national security units in the country. 

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: Um, public corruption is not unheard of in New York.

Jon: What?!

Geoffrey Berman: Yeah, no.

Jon: In the Southern District of New York? How dare you, Sir? How dare you!

Geoffrey Berman: It goes on.

Jon: How did you end up there? What did you, how do you end up prosecuting, uh, mafia cases, terrorist cases in Southern District of New York? Where did, how did your law career move to that?

Geoffrey Berman: So I was hired to be a prosecutor on the Iran-Contra cases, which was —

Jon: What?!

Geoffrey Berman: Yeah. That was extraordinary. 

Jon: So you dealt with, for those who don’t remember Iran-Contra. We sold missiles, I guess, to Iran and then took that money and it was diverted to the Contras in Central America for their civil war. 

Geoffrey Berman: That’s right. And there was a congressional prohibition on the US funding the Contras. It was called the Boland Amendment. 

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman:And this, uh, the money that was funneled by Oliver North and others was in contravention of the Boland amendment. So that’s the first case I worked on. 

Jon: Weren’t we also prevented from selling arms to Iran at that point, because this was post, uh, Islamic Revolution. The Shah was no longer in power, so this was the Ayatollah’s regime. And I think America was not allowed to sell them weapons.

Geoffrey Berman: Well, you know, this was a clandestine sale. I don’t think it was necessarily illegal.

Jon: Mhmm

Geoffrey Berman: I believe Iran and Iraq were in a long term war together. 

Jon: Yes. That’s right. 

Geoffrey Berman: And I think that, you know, it was probably in the interest of the United States, that that war continue, you know, as long as possible

Jon: The United States, big fan of continuing wars that they’re not involved in, but send, uh, arms to. Now you were though uh, not to be too political, but you are a Republican. And so that was a Republican administration. That was, uh, I believe HW Bush, no?

Geoffrey Berman: Yes.

Jon: I mean, it was, it was the Reagan administration. 

Geoffrey Berman: It started under Reagan. 

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: And then, uh, George H.W. Bush, uh, won the election. Then, you know, when the charges ended up being brought, it was under, uh, George H.W Bush, but you know, it was there I learned early on… 

Geoffrey Berman: It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is. 

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: You do the job, you look at the facts, you look at the law —

Jon: mm-hmm

Geoffrey Berman: — and you’re unbiased. That’s like the Cardinal rule of the department of justice. And one that I learned very early on.

Jon: Did your parents know that growing up, you were living that close to a communist? [Berman Laughs] Did they have any idea what was happening just up the street? 

Geoffrey Berman: No, I, uh, you know, [Jon Laughs] word word never got out. 

Jon: Oh. Thank God.

Geoffrey Berman: And thank God the Judge didn’t find out.

Jon: If The Judge had found out I’m not sure I would’ve made it through. Let alone that time. I shot a BB gun through my mother’s van window, but that’s a whole other story.

Geoffrey Berman: Oh!

Jon: Uh, so you end up — you’re in the Southern District. And I think the point you made about, uh, you learned early on that it didn’t matter what your affiliation was, these things should not be politicized. Iran-Contra is another example of the difficulty — how long was the prosecution of that case and, ultimately, Oliver North was convicted, yes? But only of — wasn’t it only of perjury?

Geoffrey Berman: Well, it was also interestingly enough with the news in the headlines today. 

Jon: Mm-hmm 

Geoffrey Berman: It was obstruction as well. 

Jon: Ok.

Geoffrey Berman: I worked very closely on the Oliver North obstruction case. Do you remember Fawn Hall?

Jon: Sure. I remember Fawn Hall. She was an assistant, uh, in that office and ultimately ended up — very glamorous — dating I think Rob Lowe or so. People don’t remember the Eighties in any way and they shouldn’t. [Berman Laughs] ‘Cause it was a nightmare. Uh, so she was a cooperating witness. How difficult was it to get the records that you had required from the administration from Oliver North, from Fawn Hall? How, how did this case turn?

Geoffrey Berman: So the — on the obstruction part of the case, it was probably the most straightforward case because this was at the very origins of email. 

Jon: OK. 

Geoffrey Berman: And he was using an early email system — 

Jon: OK. 

Geoffrey Berman: — of the US government. And so he spent like a couple nights at his computer deleting emails thinking, “Oh, well they’re deleted, they’re gone”.

Jon: Right, right. Didn’t understand.

Geoffrey Berman: Well, nobody understood that. In fact, when it became public that the FBI was able to resurrect every email that he deleted —

Jon: Oh my God. 

Geoffrey Berman: — people were like amazed and there are things, oh my God, “When I deleted something, it’s not really deleted”? No, it’s there forever, essentially.

Jon: So this gets us now to where you’re at. Trump, you know, all these administrations follow this same sort of pattern.There is a whiff of a corrupt, let’s say it’s a quid pro quo. Let’s say it’s an underhanded dealing. You know, we have to understand all governments, Republican, Democrat. There are ways in which they conduct business that are always tiptoeing on the line of what we would consider corruption. And the job of the prosecutor is always to go back and say, “give us the records, let us look through.” And invariably, the records are not given with, uh, any kind of alacrity. There is shenanigans. People try and delete them. They won’t give you the phone. They delay, they deny. And it’s very unusual that to gain a conviction in these cases, is it not?

Geoffrey Berman: Yeah, no, it’s very hard. And you have to show a corrupt intent through the whole process. And we had a very hard time collecting documents in the Iran-Contra case because so many of them were classified and it was very difficult.

Jon: So they — even in Iran-Contra, they were stored at Mar-a-Lago. [Berman Laughs] Isn’t that? I believe that’s where our nation’s secrets are now housed. It’s the Fort Knox of, uh, American secrets.

Geoffrey Berman: Fort Knox with a view. 

Jon: Yes. Beautiful, beautiful place.

Geoffrey Berman: So, and, you know in the Iran-Contra case, we were stymied because, uh, the administration — what wasn’t letting us use the classified documents at trial. 

Jon: Mm-hmm. 

Geoffrey Berman: Because it’s ultimately up to the discretion of the administration, whether to declassify the documents for purposes of a trial. And so, uh, we had to drop a couple of prosecutions, one that I was, uh, intimately involved in because we just — they wouldn’t allow us to divulge the classified documents.

Jon: That’s right. So generally though and this gets us to maybe the crux of the conversation, the thing that I think people are curious about is this, cause I’m curious about it. America is — if there’s one thing that we do well, it’s incarcerate people. I mean, we are numero uno as far as jailing people per capita for any industrialized nation. Man, you know, you got guys, they come in, they jump a turn style they’re doing four months at Rikers in a terrible situation. But when it comes to political crime or white collar crime, it seems that the advantage flips. That in general crime, the crimes of chaos or direct crime, the defendant is really — and maybe it’s resources — is behind. But when it comes to white collar crime and when it comes to political crime, their strategy is: delay, deny, don’t give access, fight everything until the attorney at this Southern District gets pushed out or it seems that we are not necessarily well equipped to prosecute these crimes.

Geoffrey Berman: Well, that’s what’s so extraordinary about the Southern District of New York. And it really is one of the country’s great institutions. And right after Iran-Contra I was an AUSA in the  Southern District of New York in the early Nineties, and learned to do things, you know, the  Southern District way. And the reason the  Southern District is so extraordinary is we are going toe-to-toe with the biggest, most formidable law firms in the country. And we take ’em on and we’re not afraid. 

Jon: Mm-hmm 

Geoffrey Berman: And we have the talent. 

Jon: And they, and they could make a bunch of money doing corporate law, doing a lot of other stuff, that they’ve gotta be dedicated.

Geoffrey Berman: They are completely dedicated. They could make a lot more money on the outside, but they don’t because they love their job. And there’s just nothing more rewarding than public service and, uh, so we take it on and we take it on really well.

Jon: And, and obviously you can see what they’re up against, but then why does it take so long? ‘Cause I-I let’s use Trump as the example now. I’m from New York. So we’ve known the guy for thirty or forty years. Everybody knows the type of guy he is. Any contractor that ever worked with him knew, uh, I’m gonna get paid 80%, 75% of what I’m owed, just to the point where it’s too expensive for me to try and claw it back in court. You know he’s notorious for his, uh, abusive and kind of exploitative business dealings. But as far as the legalities of it, his lawyer, Michael Cohen goes to jail, his CFO Alan Weisellberg goes to jail. What does he do that allows everyone in his satellite orbit to be prosecuted for very clear crimes? How does he end up unscathed?

Geoffrey Berman: Well, look, I, you know, in my book, I don’t talk about investigations that the office undertook when we didn’t indict, right? ‘Cause it violates department policy and it’s not fair. 

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: But what I can tell you is that after Cohen’s guilty plea, the office investigated thoroughly, the campaign finance violation charges. And I can tell you that the Southern District doesn’t pull punches. 

Jon: Mm-hmm 

Geoffrey Berman: And if there was a case to be brought the  Southern District would’ve brought it. But what you have to do is, you have to examine in a kind of granular way the evidence against somebody,

Jon: Mm-hmm

Geoffrey Berman: You know, look at the, uh, elements of the charge, and be confident that, you know if admissible evidence is put before a jury, that you’re gonna get a conviction that people are gonna say guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: That’s a, that’s a high standard. And, you know, we don’t have a different standard for, you know, some people as opposed to other people, everybody is treated the same.

Jon: Well, in some ways though they’re not because, you know, he clearly has the resources to delay. Anybody else in that situation — and I’m not just talking about Trump — I’m talking about generally people of means and people who are politically connected. It’s pretty clear that they make it much harder for folks like you to indict them because in any other case — so imagine you’re just dealing with regular Joe on the street. And let’s say that regular Joe on the street uh, pays off a adult film star, not to talk based on there —

Geoffrey Berman: It’s a hypothetical.

Jon: It’s a hypothetical. And the lawyer who executes that deal is found guilty. But the person at whose, uh, behest that lawyer is operating, you know, the Southern District just says like, “Oh well what are you gonna do? You can’t get that guy.”

Geoffrey Berman: Oh I don’t, uh, no, I don’t think the  Southern District of New York ever said that. 

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: You know, we had a dedicated team of our best prosecutors. Um and they pursued those allegations thoroughly. And —

Jon: So is the — was the idea there that Cohen acted on his own? Is that the thought?

Geoffrey Berman: That doesn’t mean that that’s what happened, but when it comes to —

Jon: – That’s only what you could prove. 

Geoffrey Berman: — when it comes to indicting, you have to look at the admissible evidence against a particular individual. And so we looked at the evidence against Michael Cohen and it was there and he pled guilty and, you know, no other prosecutions, uh, were brought because, you know, there wasn’t a case to be brought.

Jon: So even if Michael Cohen said, I will testify and say, “Donald Trump told me to do that”, that’s not enough.

Geoffrey Berman: That’s not the end of the analysis that’s required to have a successful trial against someone else.

Jon: I guess that’s my point is — what can we do to make political crime and white collar crime of the big fish? You know, there’s so many tactics that they can do. The bar of prosecution for these people of means — let alone a former president — seems like it’s so high as to not make a lot of a lot of sense. Because it — doesn’t it — isn’t it beyond your comprehension that Trump isn’t the ringleader of the fraudulent case against the CFO Weisselberg and the case against Michael Cohen. 

Geoffrey Berman: You know, I just believe in the professionalism of prosecuting a case.

Jon: Mm-hmm 

Geoffrey Berman: And, and building a case brick by brick and not letting other thoughts or, you know, politics enter into it. You know and as far as, you know, the Southern District just indicted the former Lieutenant Governor of New York, right? 

Jon: Mm-hmm 

Geoffrey Berman: So Southern District is not afraid of taking on powerful people.

Jon: You know I’m looking at the case now, uh, in Mar-a-Lago, when you’re in a situation where you can get a case heard before a judge that you appointed and they don’t have to recuse themselves, does that put, uh, prosecutors at a disadvantage? In other words, the disadvantages that prosecutors face in these cases versus the cases that they’re looking to prosecute against, uh, people of less import or less means, what does, uh, a district attorney in that position, what are the tools that you can use to get the corroborating materials that you need? ‘Cause it’s pretty clear they fight tooth and nail to keep you from the evidence.

Geoffrey Berman: So in this case with Mar-a-Lago, right? 

Jon: Mm-hmm. 

Geoffrey Berman: Um, you know, the Justice Department just filed an appeal seeking immediate access to the classified documents that were seized in the search and there’s an urgency to what the Department of Justice wants and that’s to move forward with the investigation and I get it. I mean, it was an incredible revelation when the Department of Justice announced that they were investigating Donald Trump and those around him — 

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Geoffrey Berman: — not just for the mishandling of classified information, but for obstruction of a subpoena seeking, requiring disclosure of those classified documents, that’s a very, very important charge. I mean, if that were in the  Southern District, we would be moving really quickly on it. It would have the highest priority — 

Jon: Mm-hmm. 

Berman: — and here Merick Garland is, and he can’t move forward with the case as he wants, because he can’t have access to those seized documents. So I get why he wants to move forward. I understand the importance and I, and I think he’s justified. 

Jon: Now, again, like, I guess I look at the bar of this. You know, I look at when he says. Uh, the, I guess the archives call him and they say, “We want our documents back.” And he says, “Uh, no, they’re mine.” And then he — they meet with his lawyers and they come up with a plan and they say, “There’s no classified documents here. Uh, and we’re gonna give you this stuff. This is all of it.” And then I guess they find out — 

Geoffrey Berman: And it wasn’t a meeting, they got a subpoena and so the idea, you know, the people who receive it better be thorough and complete and take it seriously. And if they didn’t, very, very serious charge. 

Jon: But I would imagine that most people — regular Joe’s again — who get a subpoena, don’t get the kind of leeway that these politicians are getting, you know, subpoenas at this point. There’s a lot of them that say, “I’m not sure I’m gonna abide by it. I may. I’ll think about it.” A subpoena in my mind is not, “Hey, we’d love to talk to you someday.” 

Geoffrey Berman: No, it’s not discretionary. It’s a mandate and nothing should focus the mind of anyone powerful or not powerful, like receiving a subpoena. 

Jon: But there seems to be a gap in accountability of receiving a subpoena where it now appears to be like getting a jury duty summons. [Berman Laughs] Like you get a jury duty summons and you think like, “well, I’ll just go in there and tell them I have a job and everything will be fine.” 

Geoffrey Berman: Right. 

Jon: I think if you’re the public there’s a real frustration that the rule of law doesn’t necessarily apply equally. 

Geoffrey Berman: No, I get it. And I saw it happen in my experience when Trump, as you said, would use the Department of Justice, like his own law firm —

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: — to target political enemies and benefit his political friends and that eviscerates the rule of law and people then lose faith in the critical institutions in our country. 

Jon: That’s right. 

Geoffrey Berman: Like the Department of Justice, like the FBI, like the judiciary, and it’s awful. It’s destroying the fabric of our country and we really have to fix it.

Jon: What is the — then what is that accountability piece? For instance, and I don’t even understand this one. Uh, you’ve got Matt Gaetz who is a Congressman down in Florida. He’s been apparently under investigation for two years for sex trafficking, uh, of a minor. He asked the President for a preemptive pardon. Is there a scenario there that makes sense to you as to why that’s two years. And there seems to be, I mean, he’s running again. He’s gonna win, more than likely, I guess, because he’s in a pretty safe seat. Uh, how do you unpack what goes wrong there? 

Geoffrey Berman: Listen you know, the priority that I gave and that the Southern District had on sex trafficking case, right? We’re the ones who corrected the injustice of Epstein. 

Jon: Another example of someone with means who is caught, red-handed in a thing and the accountability piece isn’t there. So what goes on?

Geoffrey Berman: The one case where we were delayed in the trial, not the indictment, but we brought a case against Chris Collins who was, uh, the Trump’s earliest backer in Congress. It was an insider trading case. He was a Republican Congressman from upstate New York.

Jon: Right. 

Berman: And, uh, we brought the indictment. Sixty days, right? The sixty day rule. You gotta bring an indictment, you know, outside of sixty days before an election. 

Jon: Now, is that a rule-rule? Is that like a baseball rule where they’re like, “you can’t steal a base when it’s ten-nothing.

Geoffrey Berman: There’s no crying in baseball. 

Jon: Right? I mean, is that, is that a real rule?

Geoffrey Berman: It’s not a written rule. It’s a rule of thumb. It’s uh, but it’s been around for a long time. 

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: And in the Chris Collins case, um, you know, we indicted him and it was a pretty strong case. Uh, he won reelection. He then had to resign into his next term because he pled guilty — 

Jon: Right 

Geoffrey Berman: — and admitted to his crimes. He, I think had the legal ability to appeal that to the Supreme Court and delay his trial. So that’s an example of someone who’s wealthy and powerful being able to delay the case.

Jon: But think of, think of the exceptional, uh, effort that you have to make there. Like, I’m just imagining, like, let’s say, uh, you know, uh, somebody hits me on a felony drug charge and I’m like, “Wait, it’s sixty days before the start of football season. Where’s my sixty day rule?” you know, when you look at these unwritten rules, that regular people, uh, can’t get, that all these avenues. Like I’m not convinced — and I know maybe you can’t say it — but I’m not convinced that you don’t think Trump was guilty in the Michael Cohen case. I’m not convinced that you don’t think he’s not guilty in the Weisselberg case. It’s that the bar of prosecution of getting all the evidence together against people that, you know, uh, have the means to delay it is so high.

Geoffrey Berman: And also it is true that powerful people, people of means have potential influence over other witnesses that the, you know, normal Joe in the street won’t have.

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: And that’s true. And you’ve gotta — 

Jon: But they sound like mafia cases. I mean, for God’s sakes the prosecutions of politicians really do bear a tremendous resemblance to the prosecution of mob bosses. I mean, Donald Trump is out there right now saying, “Boy, if you come after me, streets are gonna run red and I’m not gonna —” Imagine a gang leader says, “If you prosecute me, there will be blood. I will have my gang members do that.” Most prosecutors would just go — pardon the language — “F*** you. I’m taking you down.” [Berman Laughs] How much do, in the behind the scenes, how much conversation is there to the political and social ramifications of these kinds of prosecutions and how much conversation is there about the frustration of all these really dedicated and amazing attorneys swimming upstream against all the difficulties of fairly prosecuting these cases?

Geoffrey Berman: Well, you know, it can sometimes get frustrating for the AUSA. They work so hard and it’s a team effort there.

Jon: Let’s talk about your situation in particular. So you’re a guy you’re fighting, the good fight there and Bill Barr, who is the attorney general of the United States at the time, I believe. You know, when you were, uh, at the SDNY is, is leaning on you –

Geoffrey Berman: – Leaning is a polite way of putting it.

Jon: – A polite way of putting it. Threatening you to use the SDNY to Trump’s advantage.

Geoffrey Berman: That’s absolutely correct.

Jon: And, and how unusual is that? Because what it says to me is, you know, I mean, he wanted you to investigate, uh, John Kerry. He wanted you to lay off of Michael Cohen. He want – They want all these things. It certainly can’t be the first time. It leads me to believe, generally, it’s like a roach. When you see a roach, you don’t think, oh, there’s one. When something like that happens, yeah.

Geoffrey Berman: Jon, you know, it was the things that happened to me when I was, uh, at the Southern District.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Geoffrey Berman: The political interference by main justice into our cases was unprecedented.

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: We’d had people in the office for forty years. No one had ever seen anything like it.

Jon: Really?

Geoffrey Berman: But did that interference occur in other offices while it was happening at the Southern District of New York? I don’t doubt that for one minute. You know, when Barr tried to get me to resign by dangling some jobs in front of me. 

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: And trying to put one of, you know, his, um, an outsider who he trusted in charge of the  Southern District. I said, “No.” But a few months earlier, he did the same thing in the District of Columbia. And, you know, the US attorney took another job at Treasury and Barr put in a very close ally. And then it was basically a hostile takeover of that, of the District of Columbia, US attorney’s office by a main justice. And they’ve made motions in various cases including Roger Stone and Manafort, and it was an absolute disgrace. So we know it happened elsewhere. I don’t think we know everywhere where it happened because you know, present and former, uh, Department of Justice employees are bound, you know, not to disclose conversations with other DOJ employees, not to disclose cases and investigations. 

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: The only way I was able to come out with this book is because I went through the pre publication review process at the Department of Justice. But if somebody doesn’t go through that process –

Jon: – They can’t do it.

Geoffrey Berman: They’re not permitted to divulge this. 

Jon: I was raised during water as you know, like we came up during Watergate and there’s not a moment of anything that you described that makes me not think of Jon Mitchell and, uh, Richard Nixon, firing Mitchell and getting the FBI and obstruction of justice. Like it’s — how is any of this legal in a democratic system? And how do we bring some form of accountability? Because to my mind, if somebody sees what happens to you, right? And you’re able to speak about it now, but if I’m working now in the SDNY, or I’ve got some ambition to rise up through the ranks, I’m looking at these examples and saying, “I better keep my nose clean and I better do what’s right. Uh, along these people of power or I’m not gonna be able to, uh, to get there.” And it really undercuts what you think about the fairness of justice. 

Geoffrey Berman: No, it’s absolutely right. And you know, after Watergate, you know, people in the Department of Justice, the leaders, you know, went to jail.

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: And many thought that that lesson would be learned by people coming after them. And I think to a large part, it was, I think this is the first instance since that Watergate period —

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: Where the justice department was politicized to the extent it was. And that’s why I thought it was so important to come out with a book to let people understand the full scope of what happened. So you know, hopefully something like this will be less likely to happen again. Although if we have the same characters, you know, in office, you know, there’s no stopping ’em. 

Jon: Now, what are you hearing from those that are, uh, behind the scenes for all these, you know, you come out with a book. Do they give any indication to you that now there’s a different administration? Have they reassured you that accountability is coming in some way, or is all this going to be again, another tempest in a teapot? That we’re gonna see a raid and a subpoena and a thing. And accountability is put off because there’s a 150 day rule before a rally. Is there, are you hearing anything that gives you confidence that accountability is-is coming?

Geoffrey Berman: You know, uh, once you leave the Department of Justice, the door shuts and it’s – 

Jon: – What is it like, the Avengers? [Berman Laughs]  You can’t even get back in?

Geoffrey Berman: That’s a great analogy. 

Jon: Alright. 

Geoffrey Berman: And so I can’t get back in and, and really the, uh, information that you would have if you were in the office is really no longer available. I never ask people for information and they never provide it because we follow the rules.

Jon: Here’s the terrible part. They’re not. 

Geoffrey Berman: Well.

Jon: And, and because they’re not, you know, in the same way that finally to, uh, get their way through the mafia, they had to use the RICO Act and they had to do other things of conspiracy. At some point somebody’s gonna have to stand trial, it seems. 

Geoffrey Berman: Well, we’ll see what happens. Look, the, uh, Congress, uh, the Senate committee of the judiciary has initiated, uh, an investigation based on what I have in the book. 

Jon: Yeah. 

Geoffrey Berman: So, uh, you know, I welcome that.

Jon: Did they not have that information prior? 

Geoffrey Berman: I don’t think they did, no one had. I was prohibited from disclosing it.

Jon: Oh.

Geoffrey Berman: Until there was a pre-publication review from the Department of Justice.

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: So they have the information now. They’ve, uh, initiated an investigation. I welcome it. And I’m gonna cooperate, uh, obviously fully with it. 

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: And it’s gonna hopefully help shed more light on the conduct of, uh, Trump’s Justice Department.

Jon: Right. How do we bring white collar and political crime more in line with the way that other people are prosecuted? Because it does seem like, look, you know, after 9/11, uh, law enforcement infiltrated mosques. The January 6th committee apparently discovered all kinds of things that the justice department was like, “I never heard that. Uh, can you send that over? Can you copy that memo?” How do we bring the two tiers of justice closer together? Unless you believe that they are closer together, but it seems pretty clear to me that we have one sort of, uh, set of rules for the powerful and one set of rules for everyone else.

Geoffrey Berman: Well, I, you know, as I’ve been saying, I don’t think that applies in the  Southern District of New York because the units that we have that address like serious white collar crime, serious public corruption, financial crime. I mean, they’re the highest units in the office and attract the best prosecutors. So we make it a mission— 

Jon: Mm-hmm 

Geoffrey Berman: – to treat those cases, you know, give them the attention, uh, that they deserve. And I think, you know, one thing that other US attorney’s office [sic] might think about is beefing up those units in their offices. 

Jon: Right.

Berman: So if the white collar unit has 10 AUSAs, you know, throwing in another 5 or 10 people and have them be more entrepreneurial about finding the cases. So — 

Jon: Oh, that’s interesting. 

Geoffrey Berman: – You know, when, when Trump said, “Oh, I’m, I’m canceling the government’s subscriptions to, um, the New York Times, uh, and the Washington Post”, you know, I increased our budget for newspapers in the office because it’s reading those newspapers that give our AUSA leads to pursue this kind of public corruption and financial crime.

Jon: Do you think it’s because? I wonder if it’s this, ‘cause right now in New York city, there is an enormous hullaballoo about the increase in crime. Is it that people don’t view political and white collar crime…People don’t want chaos. And people view their own personal safety different [sic] than what these incredible corruption cases may do to the fabric of society. It’s not an immediate chaos. And do you think that that plays into why white collar and political crime is so much more difficult? ‘Cause the public outcry is also not really there.

Berman: Well, you know, it is true that, you know, the first order of business in a city is to keep people safe and people want to be kept safe.

Jon: Mm-hmm. 

Geoffrey Berman: And so, uh, and then now you’re really talking about the DA’s office, right? You’re not talking about the US Attorney’s office. 

Jon: Correct. 

Geoffrey Berman: Which— 

Jon: That’s right. 

Geoffrey Berman: Which addresses higher level, you know, more significant cases. So, you know, I can understand that the NYPD uh, and the mayor, you know, wanna make people feel and be safe in the city.

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: Um, but I can tell you from my experience, when we would bring like a big public corruption case, or we would, you know, um, you know, that got a lot of attention. I mean, they hate –

Jon: Right. Well, certainly something like Madoff and things like that. 

Geoffrey Berman: They hate people getting paid off. They hate people being given special privileges. And we brought a lot of those cases.

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: . So I think it’s a um you know, it’s a little, it’s once removed from the safety issue. 

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: But I think people still think it’s still very important.

Jon: And they can understand that it can hollow out the fabric of society. It can cause chaos in that, like it’s a loss of resources. It’s a loss of trust. what for you now do you feel like you’ve blown up your career? [GEOFFREY LAUGHS] Like how do you, what, I mean, you did this at a high personal risk. You know you could have done what Bill Barr asked. You could have just accepted the other position and kept your mouth shut and gone along to get along. How does that personal toll and professional toll sit with you now? And, do you still stand by your decision and all those things? 

Geoffrey Berman: You know, Jon, it, it never was a decision for me. You know, I had first and foremost, the only thing I cared about. During my entire tenure at the Southern District was protecting the integrity and independence of the Southern District. Every decision I made was looked at through that lens. So when, you know, when I was dangled these other jobs by Bill Barr, it was an absurdity. I mean, to me –

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: It was an absurdity and I, it would never have happened. And so the book and my decision to, um, you know, throw a light on this was an obligation that came out of my love for the Southern District of New York and my love for the Department of Justice. And I’m hoping that it’ll help, uh, reestablish the rule of law and cause the department of justice to become independent and unbiased, which, which the country desperately needs.

Jon: Was there any thought when all this happened? Any talk in the office, sitting by the microwave, making that cup of noodles, “Hey man, let’s all walk out. Let’s all, in protest, let’s all do that. ‘Captain, my Captain.’ Let’s stand up on the desk and, and let Bill Barr know that we won’t take this.” What – Would that be the kind of gesture that would expose this if everyone had just said, “You know what? We’re walking out.” I mean, he said you resigned, clearly you didn’t. But what if everybody had just stood in protest and said, “Not doing this.”

Geoffrey Berman: Well, walking out or, you know, quitting is exactly what they wanted me to do.

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman: Because that would’ve opened the opportunity for Barr to appoint, someone from the outside— 

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: – Who he trusted to take over the office. So that was never something that I felt comfortable doing and never something, uh, that would’ve been appropriate. So like many who stayed in their positions, despite misgivings, you know, I took the appointment and I decided to fight, to stay in the appointment. 

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Geoffrey Berman: Uh, because, you know, I thought it was best for the Southern District of New York and the country. And because the AUSAs who didn’t quit, they needed somebody to lead the office.

Jon: Do you see this as a singular threat from Trump and that manner of doing business or is this endemic in the politico– political system right now?

Geoffrey Berman: I think it was unprecedented with Trump and that Trump was able to, you know, uh, put people in these positions who were doing his bidding. I mean, when Barr first came in, I was like, “Great, we’re getting an institutionalist.” Right? We’re getting someone from the, you know – 

Jon: Right.

Geoffrey Berman:: George H.W. Bush administration. Fantastic, boy was that a –

Jon: Right. Well now, he’s come out as an institutionalist apparently. 

Geoffrey Berman: Oh please.

Jon: Apparently, while he was there, he was, he was doing the bidding, but now Barr has come out and it turns out he’s the hero of this story.

Geoffrey Berman: Yeah. OK. Alright. [JON LAUGHS] Give me a second here. Um, you know, when you look at whether people followed their oaths while in the Trump administration, you got to look prior to the November 2020 election. After the election, and after Trump lost— 

Jon: Yes. 

Geoffrey Berman: – People recalibrated what was in their personal interest and Barr and many with him at that point, after Trump lost, scurried off the ship.

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: But, but before then, uh, Barr was doing the bidding of the President and undermined the rule of law and corrupted the Department of Justice.

Jon: Do you believe that there is anything in place that can prevent this from rerunning? That there will be any accountability? You know, look, we live in a system where you can’t vote if you’ve been convicted of a crime, but you could still be president. You could do it from jail if you wanted to. You know it, do you have any faith that the guardrails, uh, that need to be bolstered will be so before this guy comes back and runs roughshod over any of the things that are the tent posts of a solid democratic system?

Geoffrey Berman: Yeah, no, it really concerns me. 

Jon: Right. 

Berman: Because what I’ve seen is how vulnerable our system is, if you have people intent on destroying it. So if you have a president who moves the levers of government for the acquisition and maintenance of power and personal aggrandizement, and you have people in the top of these agencies who are doing his bidding and, and they have people, you know, Barr couldn’t have done it alone. He had people who are willing to go along with his machinations — 

Jon: Right. 

Geoffrey Berman: – Even in, when it meant interfering in the Southern District’s cases. When that exists, you could have all the guardrails you want. It ultimately depends on the integrity and the honesty of the people in the jobs. And so the only thing I would suggest is that, you know, the Senate and the confirmation process be extra vigilant to ensure that the people who are appointed as US attorneys in the various offices and at the Department of Justice are prepared to follow their oaths. 

Jon: And in some ways the courage of those in your party to stand, you know, he can’t do this without their submission. And in some respects, maybe it’s a moment where they have to — not about Republicans and Democrats — it’s about having a Republic or not.

Geoffrey Berman: You’re–you’re exactly right. I was in a non-political position. And my problems with the Trump administration, with Bill Barr are non-political. It’s about the destruction of the rule of law and both parties, both sides of the aisle should be able to agree upon that. And I’m hoping, and I have faith that leadership will emerge — 

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Geoffrey Berman: – In the Republican party that respects the rule of law and seeks to restore confidence and faith in all of our critical institutions.

Jon: Thank you so much, Geoffrey. Uh, it’s such a pleasure to catch up with you again. Uh, it’s been many, many years. I do want to thank you. Your family on Halloween always delivered. [GEOFFREY LAUGHS] You know, there were, I’m not gonna, I don’t want to say anything about, you know what the Bardalinos were up to. You could get an apple for God’s sakes or like somebody would throw a couple of pennies in your bag. 

Geoffrey Berman: [GEOFFREY LAUGHS] That’s exactly right.

Jon: But let me tell you something, you guys always delivered.

Geoffrey Berman: We gave you the full bar. Not those little Halloween bars. 

Jon: Just know this. It was not in vain and we were much appreciative. 

Geoffrey Berman: We held the line on Halloween.

Jon: No- There’s- I don’t think there’s any question about that. Uh, Geoffrey Berman, the author of “Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department” Please, uh, give my best to your family and, uh. 

Geoffrey Berman: And ours to yours. 

Jon: Thank you so much and lovely to see you.

Geoffrey Berman: Take care. Thank you. Bye bye.

Interview with Geoffrey Berman Ends


Jon: Hoo-ah. OK. That was a lot to chew on there. Let’s bring Jay and Tocarra back here who were probably still mad.

Jay: Not mad. I’m just surprised at the amount of faith that he has in all of this.

Jon: But don’t you think he has to, to some extent?

Tocarra: Oh, 100%. He’s been — since Iran-Contra. [JAY LAUGHS] 

Jay: Tocarra.

Tocarra: Faith that can move mountains.

Jay: When, when I looked at Tocarra, when we were listening to the interview and I was like, “And then when are they gonna get to talking about how they dropped crack in the hoods?” 


Jay: “When are we gonna get to them dropping the cocaine into the hoods?”

Jon: Guys, no, that was the Western district. [JAY LAUGHS] The Eastern hood. 

Tocarra: Oh, that’s right. That’s right. 

Jon: That wasn’t the Southern District. My favorite thing is it’s all about like, “These people are great and they work really hard.” And you’re like, right, but it’s a hamster wheel and you’re just going around in circles and these guys are playing, they’re playing the system, like Donald Trump is playing the system. Like, the thing I will never figure out is, “so let me get this straight. Your lawyer went to jail and your accountant went to jail.” 

Tocarra: Mm-hmm 

Jon: “And you’re fine.” 

Tocarra: Yeah. 

Jon: “Because we don’t have enough on you.” And, and both of them said, “Yeah. We did this from his behest.” “Yeah. Not enough.” And you’re like, “There are people in jail like for so much less in terms of-“ That’s what I was trying to get at is like, is the bar of just bringing this to trial just too f***ing high ‘cause you’re too nervous about the political implications. 

Jay: Yeah and even Stormy Daniel was punished ‘cause she had to do a couple of road gigs, I think as a standup.

Jon: Did she really do standup?

Jay: Yes. You didn’t know? 

Jon: I didn’t know she did stand up.

Jay: Oh, she did stand up. For real.

Tocarra: I heard she did something in Indianapolis and it was pretty good.

Jon: See, that makes me sad to some extent. [TOCARRA LAUGHS] Like, I worked my whole f***ing life to get like pretty decent at this. And she’s like, “Eh, yeah, I’ll try that.” Goes and f***ing starts selling out places in Indianapolis.

Tocarra: Yeah. I was really surprised by how even keeled he was during this interview because if this were me and I, there were folks of this, uh uh, political power and influence, you know, just skirting through law and order. I’d be like, “You’re playing in my face. You’re playing in my face and I’m upset.” And I’m really surprised he didn’t heighten a little bit, even towards the end where you were questioning him. I was surprised.

Jon: I do think that the Barr situation upset him. I think he thought, I think he expects it from Trump. I think he views the guardrails more passionately than the actual uh, perpetrator, which is Trump, but the one thing, and I enjoyed talking to him.

Tocarra: Mm-hmm. 

Jon: But the one thing I still couldn’t wrap my head around that seemed very unsatisfying, was this idea like, “Hey man, look, we’re just justice. We’re blind. We just go where the evidence tells us to go. And it has to raise to a certain level or we can’t bring, uh, the case.” And everything in my body, in my bones, in my soul tells me that’s not true. That’s your telling me to, “well, who are you gonna believe me or your lion eyes?” There is no way that there is a fairness to bringing these guys to justice, at all.

Jay: I think he didn’t want to insult any of the attorneys. But his whole stance was of course, when people have power and influence, they do have means and access to things that can like belabor process and kind of stretch things out. And if you have the financial means to do so, then you can kind of hamstring an investigation. 

Jon: Right. 

Jay: And you offered all those things. And he was like, “Oh, I agree completely.” And you went “So it’s different.” And he went, “No, it’s the same.”

Tocarra: That’s right.

Jon: Look, Trump’s methodology is simple: delay, delay, delay, delay, delay, delay, delay, delay. When I finally get called to account, I take the fifth.

Jay: And distract. Delay and distract.

Tocarra: That’s right.

Jon: So it’s gonna take you three to five years just to get me to the point where I can take the fifth and nobody’s got the stamina or the money to keep up with that. I mean, if you don’t have the f***ing text messages that say, “Oh, you’re gonna give me welfare money to build the volleyball stadium.” [JAY LAUGHS]

Tocarra: Whoa.

Jay: Oh my goodness.

Jon:  I sure hope, I sure hope no one finds out about that.

Jay: OK, well, Jon, as a Mississippi native, let me tell you something about the favorite son of our state behind Jerry Rice and Eli Manning: Brett Farve. 

Jon: Uh, for those of you who don’t know, it’s, uh, Brett Favre, the former quarterback of the, uh, Green Bay Packers and I believe Minnesota Vikings and uh, New York Jets.

Jay: Ah, we really don’t have to acknowledge those last two, but OK.

Jon: First thing is, uh, he was given money that was, uh, in a block run, I guess, for welfare funds for Mississippi to give speeches that he never gave. So he had to pay that back like a million dollars.

Jay: But he didn’t have to pay back the interest.

Tocarra: ‘Cause the interest is innocent.

Jon: The interest is innocent, no harm, no foul. He didn’t know what it was, uh, supposed to be used for. First of all, I think we get a sense now of why Mississippi has such, uh, poverty.

Jay: Yeah. [JAY LAUGHS]

Tocarra: Wow, we’re keyed in.

Jon: You come down there, like all these people are poor, but that volleyball stadium is lit.

Jay: Oh my god.

Jon: It is fire.

Tocarra: People get married there. [JAY LAUGHS] It’s so nice.

Jay: It’s a destination wedding spot in Hattiesburg, Mississippi to go to the Oak Grove High School volleyball stadium that he built the first time, and to go to the USM women’s volleyball stadium that was just built. 

Jon: Why not do like what normal corrupt people do, which is give a s*** ton of money to there and build the stadium and put your name on it and everyone you ever know will get into that college, and that’s the end of it.

Jay: Do you understand how good Brett Farve had it? Also these text messages, I know for a fact they were sent on a Nokia Brick or like a Blackberry. There’s no way this was sent on anything updated tech wise.

Jon: You think flip phone? You think this could be a –

Jay: I think it could definitely be a flip phone. I think it could easily be a flip phone.

Jon: You think when he would get one, he would just hear [JON CHIRPS].

Jay: Nextel chirp.

Jon: Then he’d have to.

Tocarra: Actually, let’s talk about those text messages for a second.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Tocarra: Because Brett Farve texted the assistant to the governor and said, “Is there any way the media would find out about this?” Not –

Jon: Right. Now, I want, for those of you who don’t know, Brett Farve is also the dude who like texted his dick to a woman who was covering news. If anybody should understand –

Jay: Text messages.

Jon: Embarrassing text messages — 

Tocarra: Yes. 

Jon: — can sometimes get out to the public, including pictures of your 

Jay: Packer. 

Jon: Thank you. [Tocarra Laughs] Like, does anything land with this cat? Like no learning curve, zero learning curve.

Tocarra: I don’t think so, and that was point one.

Jon: What is point two, Tocarra?

Tocarra: Point two, is that, he was wanting to know if the media could find out about this, not the police, not the—  not anyone in the justice system, the media. And I think that really goes back to Trump and thinking that like, you know, “I, that’s not a problem for me. Law and order is not a problem for me.”

Jon: Wow.

Tocarra: “No, I’m, I’m concerned about being prosecuted by the court of public opinion.” Because if he knows when this goes to trial or whatever, he will be just fine.

Jon: Wow.

Tocarra: But he doesn’t want his legacy tarnished at all. 

Jay: Right?

Tocarra: And that’s what that text message said to me.

Jon: I gotta tell you though, I don’t know that he’s gonna be fine. Like, this is one of those that’s so outright, like this is diabolical in almost a cartoon villain sense. Like it’s one thing if he was, he committed a little bit of insurance fraud and he used that money to pay the thing, like you stole $5 million dollars of money that had been dedicated to those who are suffering the most in your state. The state in which you are a hero. That’s Dick Dastardly, big mustache twirling, you know, tying Penelope to the tracks kind of s***. 

Tocarra: Yeah.

Jon: You know what it is, it’s sloppy Trump. He’s sloppy Trump. Like Trump would never let this s*** get tied back to him in that way. And it just shows you the high level that Trump has to function [JAY LAUGHS] to skate above the law. I mean, for God’s sakes. Trump’s cancer charity stole from kids with cancer.

Jay: But Jon, it also shows the good old boy state. Like there is a level of like handshake politics in some of these state governments that is so casual and so cavalier about the way that they handle millions of dollars that you go, “How did this even, how did this even come about?” 

Tocarra: That’s it.

Jay: How did you even think that this would work? How are we at the point where you’re going, “Oh, I guess we have to really do this.” ‘Cause Tocarra was talking, Tocarra was talking earlier.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Jay: Brett Farve didn’t draw up the schematics. Brett Farve, didn’t say, “Oh, we can use this block grant and hide it as a lease instead of a brick and mortar so we know what to do with the $5 million dollars.” I know for a fact. I’ve seen sacks, I’ve seen NFL footage, it lets me know he cannot come up with that plan. [Jon Laughs] I know that for a fact.

Jon: You know what though? What’s so interesting is it’s so reflective of his NFL career, which is greatness, but reckless.

Tocarra: That’s it. A lot of risk.

Jon: F***ing reckless. And in a big spot, risk and reward. And he was just like, “Hey man, I’m just gonna continue– I’m just gonna scramble and see if I can make something happen.”

Jay: [Jay Laughs] Boy, did he, my god.

Tocarra: And it got him to the hall of fame, but now.

Jon: I’m gonna send my dick to a reporter and I’m gonna get $5 million dollars for a volleyball stadium. And just top it off with some wink, wink emojis that I sent from my Nokia.

Jay: Oh, well, Jon, this brings me to my next point. Who’s your favorite problematic NFL player? It can be current or retired.

Jon: It’s Colin Kaepernick. For him to take the knee.


Jay: Oh my god.

Jon: Guys, this, this was fantastic.


Jon: Uh, fantastic talking to you guys as always. Tocarra Mallard, Jay Jarden, uh, Geoffrey Berman. That’s the podcast. Uh, it’s “The Problem with Jon Stewart.” This is the podcast. The show is on Apple TV+. It’s coming out October 7th for season two. There’s a link somewhere on this. I can’t figure any of it out, but uh, but that’s why you’re you and I’m me.

Jay: Right, it’s somewhere down there. Below us.

Jon: And, and we’ll see you guys, we’ll see you guys next week. Buh-bye!

Tocarra: Bye! Thanks Jon.

Jay: Bye y’all.


Jon: “The Problem with Jon Stewart” podcast is an Apple TV+ podcast and a joint Busboy Production.