Barry Berke is a renowned trial lawyer who is on leave from his firm to be the counsel for the House Judiciary Committee Democrats during the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Berke is presenting his opinion on whether Trump should be impeached during the Judiciary Committee’s December 9, 2019, hearing.
Berke, 55, is a partner at Kramer Levin in New York City. Unlike other lawyers the Democratic members of Congress have turned to during the impeachment inquiry, Berke is one of the nation’s leading defense attorneys, who is known for representing white-collar defendants. Berke will be joined at the hearing by Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who served as the majority counsel for the House Intelligence Committee. Republican lawyer Steve Castor will also be testifying.
Berke told the House committee, “the evidence” to impeach Trump, “is overwhelming,” saying the president has committed “brazen” abuses of power. Berke added during his opening statement, “This is a big deal. President Trump did what a president of our nation is not allowed to do.” He said what Trump has done is exactly what the constitutional framers had in mind when they put impeachment into the Constitution. Berke told the Judiciary Committee about presidents like Trump, “They threaten our rule of law, they threaten our institutions and, as James Madison warned us, they threaten our republic.”
Berke will also be leading the Democrats questioning of Castor and Goldman. Republicans, led by Rep. Louie Gohmert, objected to Berke being allowed to be both a witness who presented testimony and a staff attorney questioning the other witnesses during the same hearing.
Here’s what you need to know about Barry Berke, the lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee Democrats:
1. Barry H. Berke Graduated From Duke University & Harvard Law School Before Joining Kramer Levin
Barry H. Berke, a Philadelphia native, graduated from Duke University in 1986, according to his bio on his law firm’s website. He then graduated from Harvard University Law School in 1989. He was admitted to the bar in New York that same year.
While many of the country’s top white-collar defense attorneys get their start as federal prosecutors, Berke took a different path, according to Law Dragon. Berke spent time working as a federal public defender at Federal Defenders of New York.
Berke told Law Dragon, in a 2013 interview:
When I decided to go to law school, I had a strong interest in being a trial lawyer and a belief that I wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer. That was reaffirmed by my experiences at Harvard, which included representing prisoners in disciplinary proceedings as part of a Harvard Law School organization known as Prisoners Legal Assistance Project, or PLAP. As part of my work with PLAP, I ended up representing an individual who had been convicted of a serious crime and had been representing himself in challenging many aspects of his trial. Under the Massachusetts student practice rules, I was able to represent him, along with a fellow student, in a series of hearings attacking his conviction. The case received a lot of attention, and the hearings were even televised.
After graduating, I had a clerkship for a federal judge in the Southern District of New York. My plan upon graduating had been to try to get a position in a federal defenders’ office after my clerkship. When I arrived in New York, virtually everyone told me that if I ultimately wanted to have a white collar criminal defense practice in New York City, I had to first be a federal prosecutor, which was the tried and true route for most of the white collar defense bar in the city at the time. While I received this advice from many respected sources, I decided to keep my original plan, since I had always wanted to defend, I knew I would be doing something good for the community by being a public defender, and it would be a great way to learn how to be a trial lawyer.
I was lucky enough to be offered a position in the Federal Defenders’ Office for the Southern District of New York. I found it to be a transformative experience, and I loved every minute of it. It was an extraordinary place to learn how to do everything that defines being a criminal defense lawyer, from cross-examining the government’s cooperating witnesses, to speaking directly to juries, to learning the importance of having a path to victory that has to inform every aspect of a successful defense.
I was fortunate to try 19 cases involving a wide variety of alleged offenses, and had the benefit of wonderful and generous colleagues who were always willing to share their experiences, feedback and ideas. Those experiences were critical in helping me to become the lawyer that I am today.
Berke has worked for Kramer Levin for several years, rising to become a partner at the high-powered New York City law firm. In addition to his legal work, Berke has also been an adjunct law professor at New York University. He has been involved in the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Federal Defenders of New York Inc. He has also played a role in several charity efforts, including the Coalition for the Homeless, the Lincoln Center and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
2. He Questioned Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski During a Judiciary Committee Hearing After Joining the House Judiciary Committee’s Impeachment Team
Berke was last on the national stage in September 2019 when he led the Judiciary Committee Democrats’ questioning of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. You can watch his exchange with Lewandowski below:
Republicans had previously objected to Berke working for the House Democrats, saying that he had a conflict of interest because his law firm had once done work for the Trump Organization. Alan Futerfas, the lawyer for the Trump Organization, sent a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler saying that Berke’s hiring violated ethics rules. Kramer Levin called the claims baseless, saying Berke was screened from any Trump Organization-related matters. According to the law firm, Berke’s work with the committee does not relate to any of the work his law firm has done for the Trump Organization and at the time of his leave of absence, no one at the firm was working on a “Trump-affiliated matter,” according to a statement.
“Indeed, for the past several years the firm’s work has involved only 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,” Kramer Levin said in a statement.
Berke is working for the Judiciary Committee on a pro bono basis.
3. Berke Is ‘Really Creative’ & His Performance Successfully Defending a Deutsche Bank Broker Accused of Tax Fraud Was a ‘Real Event’ in New York Legal Circles, Another Attorney Says
Berke is best known for defending high-profile white-collar defendants. In 2011, he successfully defended a former Deutsche Bank broker, Raymond Brubaker, who was accused of marketing fraudulent tax shelters. It was one of the largest tax fraud cases in U.S. history.
“In New York legal circles, Barry’s performance in that trial was a real event,” another attorney who worked on the case, Paul Schoeman, told The New York Times. “He is really creative and inventive in his thinking, and he combines that with incredible preparation and hard work. It’s not just a good idea; it’s well executed.”
According to his law firm, Berke also, “Represented former SAC Capital Fund Advisors fund manager Michael Steinberg in a prominent insider-trading case that was dropped by U.S. prosecutors following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to review a 2nd Circuit ruling in a related case, which agreed with arguments Kramer Levin had made in Steinberg’s case and preserved for appeal that the government had overstepped the bounds of insider-trading law in seeking to prosecute remote tippees.”
Additionally, Berke, “Represented a former investment representative at Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown in a criminal prosecution in the Southern District of New York related to what has been characterized as the largest tax fraud prosecution in U.S. history. He was charged with conspiring to deprive the IRS of billions of tax dollars through the use of allegedly abusive tax shelters, but was acquitted on all nine criminal charges after a ten-week trial,” his firm says.
Berke represented New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017 in a federal fundraising inquiry that did not lead to charges or any accusations of wrongdoing against the Democratic mayor.
4. Berke & Other Lawyers Wrote Papers for the Brookings Institute Saying That Trump Likely Committed Obstruction of Justice
Berke and fellow lawyers Norm Eisen and Noah Bookbinder wrote multiple articles for the Brookings Institute in 2017 and 2018 arguing that President Trump committed obstruction of justice.
The first edition of the report, “Presidential Obstruction of Justice: The Case of Donald J. Trump,” was released in October 2017 and was centered around Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
A second version of the report was released in August 2018.
“It has become apparent that the president’s pattern of potentially obstructive conduct is much more extensive than we knew,” Berke, Eisen and Bookbinder wrote. “If the facts before us at the time of the first edition of this report led us to the view that the president likely obstructed justice, the facts that have been reported since that time have made the case that President Trump obstructed justice significantly stronger. This is further evidenced by the weaknesses of the factual and legal defenses that have been advanced by the president and his team of lawyers.”
Berke and Eisen also wrote a column for CNN in December 2018, arguing there did not need to be a “smoking gun,” to prove Trump illegally colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. They wrote, “Despite Trump’s repeated denials, there is a growing chain of evidence that supports the offer of Russian help to the Trump campaign and acceptance of it, expressed or implied.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said after Berke and Eisen joined the Democrats’ legal team in February 2019, “We are fortunate to be adding the insight and expertise of two widely respected legal authorities to the staff of the House Judiciary Committee as we look to restore accountability, safeguard our democracy and protect the rule of law. This is a critical time in our nation’s history. The president of the United States faces numerous allegations of corruption and obstruction.”
Republican Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, wrote in a statement, “Looks like Democrats are staffing up for impeachment before Mueller’s report is even out. Is this the gig Berke and Eisen were auditioning for when they predicted last December the president was unlikely to have ‘a calm 2019’?”
5. Berke Is Married to Personal Trainer & Health Coach Alison Berke & Has 4 Children
Barry Berke is married to Alison Berke. They have three children, including three daughters and a son. Berke and his family live in New York City.
Alison Berke is a personal fitness trainer and nutrition health coach and former TV news producer. According to a bio for a class she leads, All Bodies Can Do Fitness, Alison Berke worked for several years at NBC News, Reuters and as a freelance producer before starting her second career in health and fitness.
“A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication, Alison received her personal training certification through the American Academy of Personal Training (AAPT), and her health coaching certification through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). She has a secondary IIN certification in hormone health,” her bio says. “Through her own experiences and in watching her children’s practices and games, Alison recognized that young people — athletes or not — would benefit greatly from focused instruction on several fitness fundamentals: proper form in exercise; coordination, strength, and endurance training; and greater awareness of the mind-body connection. Alison saw this as an opportunity to bring her personal training expertise and passion to young people, and launched All Bodies Can Do (ABCD) Fitness.”
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