Geoffrey Berman, a powerful U.S. lawyer who investigated Trump aides, refuses to step down after Barr pushes him out

Geoffrey Berman, a powerful U.S. lawyer who investigated Trump aides, refuses to step down after Barr pushes him out

Berman issued a statement saying he learned of his release from a press release.

“I have not resigned and I have no intention of resigning from my duty to which I have been appointed by judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. I will resign when the presiding nominee is confirmed by the Senate,” Berman said in an extraordinary statement. “Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption. I strive every day to work with the men and women of this Office to administer justice without fear or affection – and I intend to ensure that important cases of this Office continue unhindered.”

Berman’s rebuttal came about an hour after the Justice Department announced that Trump intended to appoint Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and was never a prosecutor.

A Justice Department official told CNN that Berman was offered other positions in the judiciary, including the head of the civilian department, where Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt abruptly announced his departure this week. Berman refused. Barr asked Berman to resign at a meeting held in New York on Friday, the source said.

Another source who knew the issue said that Berman was asked to resign and he refused.

Berman’s unexpected exit is likely to attract close scrutiny in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and among career prosecutors. He has been a U.S. attorney in Manhattan since 2018, and under his leadership, his office has prosecuted Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, investigated Trump’s chief commissioner Rudy Giuliani, and accused former associates of New York City Mayor Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Tensions between offices in New York and Washington have risen, with Berman and Barr stepping into resolving some cases, including the indictment of Turkish bank Halkbank.

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Last fall, Justice Department officials discussed replacing Berman with Ed O’Callaghan, a senior official, but then prosecutors accused Giuliani’s associates, which seemed to extend Berman’s time.

Move time, announced shortly before 22:00. ET, immediately raised questions about the circumstances of Berman’s departure.

Preet Bharara, a senior legal analyst at CNN, who was fired by Trump as a U.S. attorney for the Southern District, shortly after Trump took office in 2017, Friday to Friday, “Why does the president get rid of his own chosen U.S. attorney at SDNY on Friday night, less than 5 months before the election?”

And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said “late-night dismissal dismissal represents potential corruption in the legal process. What is President Trump angry about? This U.S. attorney’s previous action or the one in progress?”

Prior to appointing Clayton Trump to the SEC position, he was a corporate attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell. If confirmed, Clayton would be the first non-prosecutor to lead SDNY.

Barr and Clayton had known each other for years, a Justice official said, and Clayton planned to go back to NY. He expressed interest in SDNY’s work, a Justice official said, and Barr agreed.

Barr said Trump has appointed Craig Carpenito, currently a U.S. attorney in New Jersey County, as acting U.S. Attorney General for Southern New York County until Clayton is confirmed. Carpentio will begin the role on July 3rd.

This story is interrupted and will be updated.

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