“Unfortunately, with your statement last night, you chose a public spectacle over a public service,” Barr said in his letter to Berman. “Since you have stated that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you from today and he has done so.”
Speaking to reporters shortly after Barr’s letter was published, Trump said, “It’s his department, not my department.” He added, “I’m not involved.”
Berman’s shooting covered an incredible 24 hours that included a power struggle to run the most prominent prosecution outside of Washington, one that prosecuted one of Trump’s lawyers, investigated another, and investigated the president’s own activities.
During a meeting in New York on Friday, Barr asked Berman to resign, but Berman refused, CNN reported, and hours later, Barr issued a statement saying Berman had “resigned.” Two hours later, around 11 p.m. ET on Friday, Berman said he learned of his alleged exit from the press release.
“I have not resigned and I have no intention of resigning from my position appointed to me 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.
On Saturday morning, with newspaper cameras set up in front of his lower Manhattan office, Berman walked into the building and told reporters, “I issued a statement last night, I have nothing to add to that. I’m here this morning to do my job.”
Barr’s letter on Saturday indicated that “by law enforcement,” Berman’s current deputy, Audrey Strauss, will become acting U.S. attorney, “and I assume he will serve in that capacity until he is a permanent successor.” On Friday night, Barr said he intends to appoint Berman’s permanent successor Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and has never been a prosecutor.
Republicans on Capitol Hill are blinded by Barr’s efforts to take over Berman’s overthrow and have shown little will to confirm a new candidate without Democratic support – meaning there is a real possibility that Clayton’s nomination could be delayed and Berman could remain indefinitely.
The quick developments seem to have surprised Senate Justice Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the Trump and Barrhs, who said Saturday they had not told him about efforts to fire Berman.
And in a significant announcement Saturday, Graham announced he would respect the tradition of home state senators firing a replacement for Berman’s seat, meaning Democrats basically have a veto to compensate for a position considered the country’s most powerful lawyer.
This story was updated with further developments on Saturday.
CNN’s David Shortell and Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.