Late Friday evening, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who has been investigating President Donald Trump’s allies, would be stepping down. The U.S. attorney, however, said that was not the case.
In a statement, Barr announced that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman was “stepping down” after introducing Trump’s pick to replace him, Jay Clayton, who currently chairs the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Finally, I thank Geoffrey Berman, who is stepping down after two-and-a-half years of service as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. With tenacity and savvy, Geoff has done an excellent job leading one of our nation’s most significant U.S. Attorney’s Offices, achieving many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters. I appreciate his service to the Department of Justice and our nation, and I wish him well in the future,” Barr said in the statement.
Shortly after Barr’s press release, Berman released a statement of his own saying he was not resigning.
“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney,” Berman said in his press release. “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,” Berman continued. “Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption. 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 continued unimpeded.”
The New York Times reported that “a person familiar with the matter” told the outlet that Barr asked Berman to resign, but he refused.
“The clash over one of the Justice Department’s most prestigious jobs came as the agency had already been roiled by questions over whether Mr. Barr had undercut its tradition of independence from political interference,” the Times reported. “It also raised complicated constitutional and legal questions because of the highly unusual way that Mr. Berman received his job. The president and attorney general can typically dismiss United States attorneys, but Mr. Berman was not ultimately appointed by the Trump administration — he was named by a panel of federal judges.”
The New York Post added that “Berman’s refusal to resign the position he’s held for two and a half years now sets up a power struggle with the Justice Department over arguably the most prestigious US attorney’s office in the country — the Manhattan-based Southern District of New York — just five months before the presidential election.”
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