WASHINGTON: US Attorney General William Barr said that President Donald Trump has fired Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, who refused to step down over unfinished investigations.
In a letter to Berman on Saturday, Barr accused of him choosing “public spectacle over public service”, Xinhua news agency reported.
“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,” Barr wrote.
Speaking to reporters at the White House before leaving for a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday afternoon, Trump claimed that Berman’s firing was up to Barr and that he was “not involved.”
Trump announced late Friday night his intention to nominate Jay Clayton, chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, to replace Berman, who served as the attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2018.
In a stunning response, Berman, who ran the probe that sent Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to prison and is reportedly investigating his current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said that he has not resigned and that he has “no intention of resigning.”
“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney,” Berman said Fright night. “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.”
Besides Cohen and Giuliani, Berman’s office also subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee over an investigation into potential illegal contributions from foreigners and charged former Congressman Chris Collins, a Trump ally, with insider trading.
Barr said Saturday that he was “surprised and quite disappointed” by Berman’s statement and that he was “hoping for your cooperation to facilitate a smooth transition.”
“Your statement also wrongly implies that your continued tenure in the office is necessary to ensure that cases now pending in the Southern District of New York are handled appropriately,” the attorney general continued in the letter. “I fully expect that the office will continue to handle all cases in the normal course and pursuant to the Department’s applicable standards, policies, and guidance.”
US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Saturday called for Clayton to withdraw his name from consideration for the nomination to the position and for an investigation into the dismissal of Berman.
Clayton “can allow himself to be used in the brazen Trump-Barr scheme to interfere in investigations by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or he can stand up to this corruption, withdraw his name from consideration, and save his own reputation from overnight ruin,” Schumer said in a statement.
US Congressman Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, said that he thinks “Barr’s letter provides no justification for Berman’s removal.”
“Barr rushed so quickly to do damage control after being caught in a lie and an act of blatant corruption that he didn’t inform the Judiciary Committee Chair. What are they trying to cover up?” Beyer tweeted. “This will not end here.”
Clayton, a corporate lawyer who has never served as a prosecutor, is a member of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, the Financial Stability Oversight Council, and the Financial Stability Board. He also participates on the Board of the International Organization of Securities Commissions.
The Southern District of New York is among the most prominent districts in the United States.