Update (1915ET): In a Saturday evening statement, Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman announced that he will be leaving his post "effective immediately" after Attorney General William Barr said President Trump had fired him earlier in the day - a statement Trump denied.
"In light of Attorney General Barr’s decision to respect the normal operation of law and have Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss become Acting U.S. Attorney, I will be leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, effective immediately," said Berman.
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Update (1615ET): Speaking with the press before his Tulsa, Oklahoma rally, President Trump said he's "not involved" in Berman's firing, and that it's "all up to Attorney General William Barr."
President Trump just told reporters at the White House that he's "not involved" with the firing of US Attorney Berman. Trump said it's up to Attorney General Bill Barr— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) June 20, 2020
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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Update (06/20/2020): President Trump has fired Geoffrey Berman, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, after he refused to tender his resignation.
Per a Saturday letter from Attorney General William Barr in which he accuses Berman of choosing "public spectacle over public service," Barr writes: "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."
According to Rep Don Beyer (D-VA), AG 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," adding "What are they trying to cover up? This will not end here."
Read the full letter below:
BREAKING: AG Barr to Berman: "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." https://t.co/xm4NcHXI7O pic.twitter.com/fi2aL2jNHv— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) June 20, 2020
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Geffrey Berman is refusing to step down as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York after Attorney General William Barr asked him to resign, according to Bloomberg.
"I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney," said Berman, adding "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."
NEW: Geoff Berman statement:— erica orden (@eorden) June 20, 2020
“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" pic.twitter.com/L6PQCF9bdU
Reacting to the news, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said "This late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process."
SDNY was pursuing several probes of the president’s business and his inaugural committee. It was also investigating Rudy Giuliani, an outspoken Trump supporter, and charged two of Giuliani’s associates. In his congressional testimony, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, whose conviction on campaign finance violations and other charges was secured by SDNY prosecutors, said he was cooperating with them on matters he couldn’t discuss. -Bloomberg
According to a NYT anonymous source that cannot be verified, President Trump has been unhappy with Berman since he went after Cohen, and has been discussing Berman's removal with a small group of advisers for some time.
Meanwhile, Berman's predecessor just pointed out that he was fired in almost exactly the same way.
deja vu https://t.co/DXqtrzMsxD— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) June 20, 2020
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In a surprising move that inevitably will be denounced by President Trump's political opponents as another "Friday Night Massacre", the DoJ just announced that Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, will soon depart.
A Republican who contributed to Trump's campaign, Berman was considered a highly qualified pick to succeed Preet Bharara, the previous occupant of his Berman's soon-to-be-former office, which also features heavily in the TV show "Billions" (it's the position held by the show's antagonist, a corrupt federal prosecutor).
AG Barr didn't offer much in the way of an explanation, and Berman hasn't said much either. Then again, we're only just finding out about this, and it's 10pmET on a holiday Friday.
But even more surprising than the news of Berman's sudden departure is the news of who will take his place. Following a brief interlude, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton will become the next US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
For those who aren't familiar, Clayton is the same man who almost allowed Hertz and its creditors to sell hundreds of millions of dollars of stock to unsuspecting Robinhood day traders trying to flip their stimulus checks for quick cash with nary a word from the SEC.
But even more extraordinary than his handling of the Hertz situation is Clayton's decision to allow Tesla CEO Elon Musk walk away from a dispute with the SEC in which the CEO flagrantly and blithely violated basic securities regulations involving disclosures of material information to the public (remember "funding secured?" and the tedious legal melodrama that ensued in which Musk, in full blown tantrum mode, was repeatedly appeased by government regulators seemingly robbed of all willingness to hold him accountable).
Indeed, the news elicited some late-breaking chuckles on twitter.
We imagine we'll be hearing more about this tomorrow.