Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler says that in closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, former acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker “did not deny” that Donald Trump called and asked him about the case against former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and about “personnel decisions” relating to the Southern District of New York. This follows earlier reports that Trump pushed to have his friend Geoffrey Berman installed in the SDNY slot to gain control over the investigation into Cohen.
That would constitute Trump directly inserting himself into a case where his own actions were under scrutiny. Those actions subsequently led to the conviction of Michael Cohen on two counts of campaign finance violations in which “Individual 1” was a part of the conspiracy.
According to The Hill, Whitaker’s non-denial happened in a two-hour closed door session. In a public hearing on Feb. 8, Whitaker seemed to indicate that he had not had a conversation with Trump concerning the Cohen case, but in general refused to answer questions about Cohen or about the SDNY. The fact that Nadler is bringing this forward suggests that the behind-the-scenes “did not deny” was substantially different from the public “refused to answer.”
There is nothing legally inappropriate about an executive seeking to replace a U.S. attorney. However, it’s a long way from appropriate for Trump to directly attempt to replace the prosecutor investigating a case in which he was involved.