Trump Fires SDNY Prosecutor Who Refused to Resign
Attorney General Bill Barr released a statement on Saturday saying that because federal prosecutor Geoffrey Berman will not voluntarily step down, he has been fired.
According to the New York Times, the statement says that Berman had “chosen public spectacle over public service.”
Barr’s statement continued, “Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so.”
The AG also said that Berman’s top deputy, Audrey Strauss, would become the acting United States Attorney.
CNN has published Barr’s complete letter to Berman telling him that he has been fired.
After the AG’s Saturday announcement, President Trump tried to distance himself from the decision-making process, saying, “I’m not involved.”
Trump on Berman: That’s all up to the AG. AG Barr is working on that. That’s his department, not my department but we have a very capable AG so that’s really up to him. I’m not involved. pic.twitter.com/FIqoZYpDNs
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) June 20, 2020
Later on Saturday, Berman accepted Barr’s letter notifying him of his dismissal.
“In light of Attorney General Barr’s decision to respect the normal operation of law and have Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss become Acting U.S. Attorney, I will be leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, effective immediately,” Berman said.
Berman went on to praise his temporary replacement, Audrey Strauss, saying, “She is the smartest, most principled, and effective lawyer with whom I have ever had the privilege of working.”
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) June 20, 2020
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman is refusing to go quietly.
Berman says he was informed of his attempted ouster from office in a publicly released statement by Attorney General Bill Barr late Friday night that claimed Berman was “stepping down.” The prosecutor, who was appointed to the position by Trump’s Justice Department in 2018, followed Barr’s statement with one of his own, defying the attorney general’s announcement.
“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York,” Berman wrote. “I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption.”
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) June 20, 2020
Barr’s attempt to remove the U.S. attorney caused an uproar because Berman and SDNY were investigating Trump and his allies, so the move to replace Berman is seen by some as a way to quash those inquires.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who invited Berman to testify before Congress on Wednesday, blasted Barr, saying, “America is right to expect the worst of Bill Barr, who has repeatedly interfered in criminal investigations on Trump’s behalf.”
And Senator Elizabeth Warren called for the AG to resign.
“This is a naked abuse of power. I’ve already called for AG William Barr to resign & for Congress to impeach him. Congress should pass my bill now to defund Barr’s authority to interfere with matters related to Trump, his family, & his campaign,” Warren tweeted.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Barr’s interference “corruption” and spoke to the possible motive of a cover-up.
“The late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process. What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this U.S. Attorney or one that is ongoing?” Schumer said.
Although Barr’s reasons for wanting Berman removed are not known yet, New York Times business investigations editor David Enrich posted a Twitter thread that shows the SDNY and Berman have been investigating money laundering and Deutsche Bank, which might include Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. The SDNY has prosecuted past Trump allies like former personal lawyer Michael Cohen as well as Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were connected to the Ukraine investigation that ultimately led to the president’s impeachment. Reports also say that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is currently under investigation by the SDNY.
Barr’s statement also announced that Trump was nominating as Berman’s replacement Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, who according to the AP, is “a well-connected Wall Street lawyer who has virtually no experience as a federal prosecutor.”
There is also a question as to whether Barr has the legal authority to remove Berman without an already Senate-confirmed replacement.
On Saturday, undeterred by the bizarre events of Friday night, Berman went to his NY office and told the reporters who had gathered there, “I’m just here to do my job.”
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