How Bill Barr may have undermined foreign policy with 'sweetheart deal' for Turkish bank
Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski for AFP

On Tuesday's edition of MSNBC's "Deadline: White House," former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman discussed a key moment from his upcoming book, "Holding the Line: Inside the Nation's Preeminent US Attorney's Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department."

Specifically, Berman zeroed in on Barr's role in the Halkbank scandal, in which former President Donald Trump ordered both Barr and his predecessor Matt Whitaker to intervene on behalf of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan to avoid punishment for dodging sanctions on a state-owned bank — with potentially disastrous implications for foreign policy negotiations elsewhere.

"You write this: 'The DOJ is not supposed to operate according to the president's impulses, personal relationships and business interests. Whatever factors were at play with Halkbank, they flowed from Trump and through Whitaker and then Barr through various high-placed DOJ officials and came to me. As attorney general, Barr should have stood in the way of interference and he should say, no, that is not how justice works in America. Instead, every indication is that he was open to it. He was looking for clever and visible ways to let Trump undermine our rule of law on behalf of a foreign head of state,'" said anchor Nicolle Wallace. "Explain who that foreign state bank was and what the bank is."

"So Turkey owns 51 percent of Halkbank, so for all intents and purposes, it is a state bank," said Berman. "And we were looking into — we had already gotten convictions against officers of Halkbank for sanctions evasion, in advantage of Iran sanctions."

"A priority for Trump, right," said Wallace.

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"Exactly," said Berman. "And at the time, that is when the government was trying to put maximum pressure on Iran to bring them to the table to get the best deal possible. And here is Halkbank funneling money to the Iranians. So, it really undermined a huge diplomatic effort by the United States. And we were — we had already gotten a guilty verdict against a bank official and we turned our attention to the bank and we were looking at criminal charges against the bank and this is where, you know, my conflict with Barr became, I think, the most intense ... because Barr wanted to pursue what he called a 'global settlement' which was not only a sweetheart deal for the bank, but letting — giving non-prosecution agreements for all of the other individuals who were involved and part of our investigation."

Watch below or at this link.

Geoffrey Berman on William Barr's interference with Halkbank investigation