By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 13, 2022 ~
Two new nonfiction books are being released today. Bestselling author and anthropologist Sarah Kendzior’s book, They Knew, describes Donald Trump as a “transnational career criminal.” The book from the former top federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York under the Trump Justice Department, Geoffrey Berman, a Republican, reinforces Kendzior’s thesis with the revelation that Trump’s Justice Department was weaponized “to aid the President’s friends and punish his enemies,” both foreign and domestic.
One of the most outrageous demands from the Justice Department, writes Berman, was “pressure to pursue baseless criminal charges against John Kerry, who had served in the Obama administration as secretary of state.” Berman writes the following in Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department:
“Throughout my tenure as U.S. attorney, Trump’s Justice Department kept demanding that I use my office to aid them politically, and I kept declining — in ways just tactful enough to keep me from being fired.”
Berman was not willing to be the easily-molded lieutenant that Trump demanded of all of his lackeys. So late on a Friday evening, June 19, 2020, Attorney General William Barr told a bald-faced lie to the American people: he announced that Berman was resigning his post as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. As for who was going to replace Berman, Barr wrote this: “I am pleased to announce that President Trump intends to nominate Jay Clayton, currently the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to serve as the next United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”
Two hours later, Berman released his own statement indicating that William Barr had just told a brazen lie to the American people. Berman’s statement was this: “I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney. I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.”
The following day, Barr issued another statement indicating that Trump was removing Berman from his post but would leave Berman’s Deputy in charge of the office on an interim basis. Barr had stated on Friday evening that he would be putting in Craig Carpenito, the sitting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, as acting head of the office until Clayton could be confirmed by the Senate. The acknowledgement by Barr that Berman’s Deputy would be allowed to fill the post until a confirmation occurred appeased Berman and he agreed to step down.
Both the White House and media outlets confirmed at the time that Clayton had asked to replace Berman in the job as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and that Trump discussed the job with him and ultimately agreed to oust Berman in order to install Clayton. Clayton had never served a day as a prosecutor at a state or federal level. At the time of his confirmation hearing in 2017 to serve in the Trump administration as Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Clayton had been outside counsel to Goldman Sachs for years and his law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, had represented 8 of the 10 largest Wall Street firms in the prior three years. (See our report: As Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Face Criminal Probes, Barr Fires Top Prosecutor; Tries to Replace Him with Banks’ Former Lawyer, Jay Clayton.)
Equally problematic, Clayton’s family had ties to an opaque company called WMB Holdings, described by David Dayen in The Nation magazine like this:
“This company and its affiliated partners (Delaware Trust Co and CSC) are conduits for creating shell corporations and other sketchy vehicles used in tax evasion and money laundering. Public Citizen found apparent links between these companies and Mossack Fonseca, the notorious Panamanian law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal.”
Goldman Sachs was, at the time of Clayton’s nomination to head the SEC, being investigated for its role in one of the biggest financial frauds in history – a case involving a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund known as 1MDB. Goldman raised over $6 billion in bond offerings for 1MDB but, according to the Justice Department, $4.5 billion of that was “misappropriated” and used “to fund the co-conspirators’ lavish lifestyles, including purchases of artwork and jewelry, the acquisition of luxury real estate and luxury yachts, the payment of gambling expenses, and the hiring of musicians and celebrities to attend parties.” Goldman made more than $600 million in fees from the bond offerings, according to the Justice Department.
On June 11, 2020 – just eight days before Berman was abruptly dismissed from his post — the New York Times reported the following:
“Goldman Sachs is trying to get federal prosecutors to ease up on the bank for its role in a brazen scheme to loot billions of dollars from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.
“Lawyers for the bank have asked Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to review demands by some federal prosecutors that Goldman pay more than $2 billion in fines and plead guilty to a felony charge, according to three people briefed on the matter.
“The bank has sought to pay a lower fine and avoid a guilty plea, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are continuing.”
What most Americans are unaware of in the notorious 1MDB case is that the law firm where Clayton was a partner before Trump made him SEC Chair, Sullivan & Cromwell, was involved in making some of those luxury purchases on behalf of the gang of alleged criminals who looted 1MDB, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Sullivan & Cromwell’s name makes seven appearances in the criminal complaint that was eventually filed in court by the Justice Department.
Something else that the general public does not know is that the Swiss banking unit of JPMorgan Chase, a bank that has admitted guilt to an unprecedented five criminal felony counts, is named 61 times in the 1MDB complaint for its role in wiring the looted funds. While the U.S. Justice Department did not bring charges against JPMorgan Chase in the 1MDB matter, the Swiss regulator, FINMA, found in 2017 that the bank had committed serious anti-money laundering breaches in its handling of monies belonging to 1MDB.
Two of the five felony counts that the Justice Department did bring against JPMorgan Chase since 2014 stemmed from its role in ignoring giant red flags of money laundering occurring in the business bank account it handled for Bernie Madoff for decades, the mastermind of the largest international Ponzi scheme in history. The full story there also got short shrift from the Justice Department. (See our report: JPMorgan and Madoff Were Facilitating Nesting Dolls-Style Frauds Within Frauds.)
Berman’s book is interesting for what it does share with the reader but deeply troubling for what it leaves out. Berman appeared on an MSNBC news program last evening and said that the Justice Department was allowed to vet his book prior to publication. One has to wonder just how much was left on the cutting room floor.