Trump Organization demands House Judiciary Committee stop all investigations into company

In a letter to Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler, Trump company lawyer claims panel is ethically compromised

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published February 26, 2019 6:30PM (EST)

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chair of the House Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File) (AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chair of the House Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File) (AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)

The Trump Organization demanded that the House Judiciary Committee stop all investigations related to the company, accusing the panel of tainting its probe by hiring a lawyer whose firm formerly represented Trump’s company.

Trump Organization lawyer Alan Futerfas claimed that the committee violated ethics rules by hiring Barry Berke, whose law firm previously represented the company on a number of legal issues, in a letter to Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.

“Your ‘Special Oversight Counsel’ and long-time Kramer Levin partner and litigation co-Chair, Barry H. Berke, is ethically conflicted from representing or advising the Committee,” the letter said, according to Politico.

“This state of affairs violates recognized ethical obligations and irreparably taints the Committee’s work,” Futerfas wrote, demanding “that the Committee cease and desist from any and all activities that are adverse to the Company.”

Berke’s law firm, Kramer Levin, called the Trump Organization’s claims “baseless” and said Berke’s work for the committee “complies fully with all applicable ethical rules, does not pose any conflicts of interest and respects any obligations the firm may have,” the Washington Post reported.

The firm said that its work for the Trump Organization over the last several years was limited to “minor tasks for single purpose companies, such as pro forma amendments to condominium offering plans that date back more than a decade or the clearing up of minor building violations for management companies.”

The Trump Organization insisted that the firm’s statement was “false” and “in flagrant breach of core ethical obligations known to every lawyer in America.”

Berke was hired by the committee two weeks ago to consult on its investigation into legal and ethical issues plaguing the president.

“We have to follow the facts and conduct the sort of oversight that has been completely absent over the last two years,” Nadler said when he announced the hiring of Berke and former Obama ethics czar Norm Eisen.

In 2017 and 2018, Berke, Eisen and attorney Noah Bookbinder published several documents at the Brookings Institution outlining the case for impeaching or indicting Trump for obstruction of justice. The veteran attorneys cited the firing of FBI Director James Comey and Trump’s attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and special counsel Robert Mueller, among other actions. They concluded that even without the pending final report from Mueller's investigation, they concluded that "the president likely obstructed justice, a conclusion even more strongly supported by the evidence now."

"Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction,” the authors wrote. “Demanding the loyalty of an individual involved in an investigation, requesting that individual's help to end the investigation, and then ultimately firing that person to accomplish that goal are the type of acts that have frequently resulted in obstruction convictions."

In multiple Washington Post op-ed articles, the attorneys argued that any obstruction of justice finding in Mueller's report would likely have to be litigated by the House Judiciary Committee, with which they now consult.

The articles of impeachment brought against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, they wrote, "show that obstruction, conspiracy, and conviction of a federal crime have previously been considered by Congress to be valid reasons to remove a duly elected president from office."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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