“Throughout my tenure as US 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. I walked this tightrope for two and a half years. Eventually, the rope snapped.” – from Holding the Line.
“A cautionary tale about how political forces can undermine the quest for justice.” – Barbara McQuade, The Washington Post.
The gripping and explosive memoir of serving as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in the face of the Justice Department’s attempts to protect Trump’s friends and punish his enemies.
Ascending to the leadership role of US Attorney for the Southern District, which includes Manhattan and several counties to the north, is a capstone to any legal career: it entails guiding a team of the best lawyers in America in selecting and winning cases that often have global import. Geoffrey Berman was honored to be tapped for the job by Donald Trump in 2018. The manner in which Trump had dispatched his predecessor Preet Bharara was troubling, but the institution was fabled for its independence. Surely he could manage.
So began one of the most tumultuous two-and-a-half-year stretches in the over two-hundred-thirty year history of the office. Almost immediately, Berman found himself pushing back against the Trump Justice Department’s blatant efforts to bring weak cases against political foes and squash worthy cases that threatened to tarnish allies and Trump himself. When Bill Barr became attorney general, Berman hoped and believed things would get better, but instead they got much worse. The heart of Holding the Line is his never-before-told account of the lengths Barr went to in corrupting the independence of the office, and the lengths Berman had to go in preserving it. Finally, Trump and Barr, fed up with Berman’s principles, summarily fired him, though he refused to go quietly and prevented Barr from installing someone who might be more compliant. Berman’s determined defense of the values of prosecutorial independence, without fear or favor, made him a hero to everyone who shares those values.
Holding the Line also relates the remarkable casework of the Southern District in Berman’s time there, including taking down notorious sex traffickers Jeffrey Epstein and Lawrence Ray, Big Pharma executives, and vicious criminal syndicates, and repatriating Nazi-looted art. Riveting in themselves, these stories showcase the esprit de corps that makes the Southern District so special, and the stakes Berman felt in protecting its integrity against all foes, up to and including the US attorney general and the president of the United States.
| || |