Attorney General William Barr has responded to Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who publicly contradicted Barr’s announcement that he would step down by releasing a statement of his own.
“I was surprised and quite disappointed by the press statement you released last night,” said Barr. “As we discussed, I wanted the opportunity to choose a distinguished New York lawyer, Jay Clayton, to nominate United States Attorney and was hoping for your cooperation to facilitate a smooth transition.”
“Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service,” he 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.”
Berman, whose office prosecuted Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney, and is currently investigating Rudy Gulliani, the president’s personal attorney, followed up Barr’s original “stepping down” statement with a defiant response.
“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,” said Berman, who was originally appointed to serve an interim position by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but was never moved for senate confirmation, according to The New York Times.
“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 continue unimpeded.”
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) June 20, 2020
In his letter to Berman on Saturday, Barr noted: “Indeed, the court’s appointment power has been upheld only because the Executive retains the authority to supervise and remove the officer.”
According to The Washington Post, Berman sent an email to employees on Saturday morning expressing concern about “protecting this office and your work,” and also showed up at the office on Saturday. The New York Times reported that “a person familiar with the matter” claims Barr asked Berman to resign, but he refused.
Trump told reporters outside the White House on Saturday afternoon that he was “not involved” in the decision to fire Berman.
“That’s all up to the attorney general,” said Trump. “Attorney General Barr is working on that, that’s his department not my department. We have a very capable attorney general, that’s really up to him. I’m not involved.”
Trump on Barr’s claim Trump fired Geoff Berman: “That’s really up to him. I’m not involved” pic.twitter.com/yB0Fjc61Uv
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) June 20, 2020
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