Jun 20, 2020
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York whose tenure included investigations into a number of allies of President Donald Trump, said Friday night that he has "no intention of resigning" after he said he learned of his attempted ousting in a press release from Attorney General William Barr.
The federal attorney's statement, in which he also announced his intention "to ensure that this office's important cases continue unimpeded," was a rapid fire response to Barr's Friday statement saying that Berman "is stepping down."
The development sparked outrage from congressional Democrats.
"This late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process," tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this U.S. attorney or one that is ongoing?"
As the New York Timesnoted, Berman "and his team have been at the forefront of corruption inquiries in Mr. Trump's inner circle."
Berman's office prosecuted Trump's former attorney and "fixer" Michael Cohen and Rudy Guiliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. His office is also currently investigating Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer.
Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton writes in his forthcoming book that in 2018, Trump offered to help Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a Justice Department investigation into a Turkish bank, Halkbank, with ties to Erdogan that was suspected of violating US Iran sanctions. Trump, according to Bolton, told his Turkish counterpart that the Southern District prosecutors "were not his people, but were Obama people," and the problem would be fixed when they were replaced by Trump. At the time, Berman had already been installed in New York office.
In fact, the Associated Pressreported that "Berman, a Republican who contributed to the president's election campaign, worked for the same law firm as Giuliani and was put in his job by the Trump administration."
Berman, in his statement, pointed to investigations his office is currently undertaking.
"I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was 'stepping down' as United States Attorney. 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. 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," he continued. "I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favor--and intend to ensure that this Office's important cases continue unimpeded."
Barr indicated in his Friday night statement that Trump plans on nominating Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Jay Clayton--a Trump nominee who's never been a prosecutor--to serve as the Manhattan office's top prosecutor. Pending Clayton's Senate confirmation, Trump has appointed Craig Carpenito, now the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, to be the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, added Barr.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) weighed in on the Friday night developments, saying, "America is right to expect the worst of Bill Barr, who has repeatedly interfered in criminal investigations on Trump's behalf."
"We have a hearing on this topic on Wednesday," said Nadler. "We welcome Mr. Berman's testimony and will invite him to testify."
This post has been edited to fix an incorrect identification of Berman as a federal judge.
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