Berman Refuses To Step Down After Barr Moves To Oust Him, ‘Investigations Will Move Forward’

Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a news conference on March 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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June 19, 2020 10:46 p.m.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoff Berman refused to step down on Friday night after Attorney General Bill Barr issued a press release announcing that he had resigned.

“Our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption,” Berman said in the press release, where he denied Barr’s statement.

Barr had issued a statement claiming that Berman had resigned on Friday night.

But Berman, in a release of his own, said that “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 of the Southern District of New York.”

“I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate,” Berman added.

Barr said in his statement, released late Friday evening, that he “appreciate[d]” Berman’s “service to the Department of Justice and our nation, and I wish him well in the future.”

House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) invited Berman to testify before Congress at a previously scheduled hearing on Wednesday featuring DOJ whistleblowers.

Berman has led the office through investigations into close associates of Trump’s, including Rudy Giuliani and the President’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

He also has brought charges against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two GOP fundraisers with connections to Ukraine who Trump and Giuliani deputized as part of a bid to have the former Soviet republic manufacture dirt on Joe Biden.

TPM reported in November that Berman was offered dirt on Biden in October 2018 by Bud Cummins, a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas who was representing a Ukrainian client. Berman’s office never brought any charges related to the information.

CNN reported on Friday that Berman was asked to resign, but refused after being offered separate positions at DOJ.

Barr said in his statement – now disputed – that New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito will fill in for Berman until Clayton’s confirmation by the Senate.

Former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, an Obama appointee who Trump fired, expressed shock at the development on Twitter, saying that Berman was “fired” while questioning Berman’s departure.

The White House sent out a notice on Friday night saying that President Trump intends to nominate Clayton to the position.

The SEC did not immediately return a request for comment.

Clayton has chaired the SEC since May 2017. But the longtime securities and financial regulation attorney has never worked as a criminal prosecutor, a lacuna that is sure to raise eyebrows.

The move comes after months of politicization of the Justice Department, in which the country’s premier law enforcement body moved for a lighter sentence for a friend of President Trump’s, moved to drop charges against an associate of the President’s who had already pleaded guilty, and, most recently, sued to block the publication of a book embarrassing to President Trump.

The choice of the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey to immediately replace Berman instead of his deputy is also extremely unusual. Typically, when a U.S. Attorney departs, the deputy U.S. Attorney in the district is the replacement.

This post has been updated.

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