Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York who is in charge of the investigations of Trump associates Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani, and Lev Parnas, issued an extraordinary statement late Friday night after learning that Attorney General Bill Barr was trying to axe him from his position.
Wrote Berman: “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.
The NYT reports: “Mr. Barr’s announcement that Mr. Trump was seeking to replace Mr. Berman was made with no notice. Mr. Barr said the president intended to nominate as Mr. Berman’s successor Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has never served as a prosecutor.”
CNN reports: “Tensions between the New York and Washington offices have grown with Berman and Barr butting heads over the handling of some cases, including the indictment of Turkish bank Halkbank.Last fall, Justice Department officials discussed replacing Berman with Ed O’Callaghan, a senior official, but then prosecutors indicted the Giuliani associates, a move that appeared to extend Berman’s tenure.Trump and Barr have long taken issue with the office’s handling of various cases, but people close to the office believe its string of extremely high-profile investigations — including those of Cohen, Giuliani and Jeffrey Epstein — may have deterred Justice officials from pushing out Berman because his exit would have been certain to cause an uproar and charges of political interference. For the last several months, however, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, the office has had a relatively quiet period, and some believe Barr seized that opportunity to oust Berman.”
#FridayNightMassacre trended on Twitter Saturday morning.