Trump Fires U.S. Attorney Who Refused to Resign

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Posted: Jun 20, 2020 5:00 PM
Trump Fires U.S. Attorney Who Refused to Resign

Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

On Friday night, Attorney General William Barr announced that the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, was stepping down. Berman responded to the attorney general shortly after, declaring his refusal to resign, and pledging to remain in his position until the Senate confirmed his replacement.

"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," Berman said in a press release. "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 attorney general responded to Berman's statement, telling Berman he has now been fired by the president and that a temporary successor has already been chosen. 

"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," Attorney General Barr wrote in a letter. "By operation of law, the Deputy United States Attorney, Audrey Strauss, will become the Acting United States Attorney, and I anticipate that she will serve in that capacity until a permanent successor is in place."

Barr also informed Berman that he would not be staying in his office, as Berman had pledged to do. 

"To the extent that your statement reflects a misunderstanding concerning how you may be displaced, it is well established that a court-appointed U.S. attorney is subject to removal by the President," Barr explained. 

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Berman to be the interim attorney for the Southern District. But President Trump never sent Berman's nomination to the Senate, so Berman was nominated by U.S. District judges 120 days later.

"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. This is obviously false. 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," Barr said.

The attorney general said office supervisors can report any claims of improper interference in cases to Inspector General Michael Horowitz. 

"The Inspector General's monitoring of the situation will provide additional confidence that all cases will continue to be decided on the law and the facts," Barr concluded. 

Berman's office oversaw the investigation into Jeffrey Epstein, the now-deceased convicted pedophile. His office also investigated Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen and two associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, of Rudy Giuliani, who is now the president's personal attorney. Guiliani himself served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1983 to 1989. 

Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, pointed out that Berman's running to the press when asked to resign shows why Attorney General Barr was correct to fire him.