A dramatic showdown between a key federal prosecutor and nefarious Attorney General Bill Barr broke out Friday night after Barr apparently thought he could continue covering up President Donald Trump’s crimes by forcing U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman out of job. But the lead federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) said he had no plans to resign.
As head of the SDNY, Berman has led investigations into Donald Trump’s fraudulent conduct and his allies in the past, including Michael Cohen, and is investigating his current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani’s associates — who also have ties directly to Trump — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are currently under indictment from the office.
Berman’s office also subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee over an investigation into potential illegal contributions from foreigners and charged former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a Trump ally, with insider trading. This all raises the disturbing prospect that Barr might be trying to push Berman out because his office has uncovered damaging information pertaining to the president.
In a surprise Friday night press release, Barr announced — falsely — that Berman would be “stepping down” from his post.
“I thank Geoffrey Berman, who is stepping down after two-and-a-half years of service as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. With tenacity and savvy, Geoff has done an excellent job leading one of our nation’s most significant U.S. Attorney’s Offices, achieving many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters,” said Barr.
Berman was to be replaced by Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who many noted has not served as a prosecutor before.
Before Clayton could be confirmed by the Senate, Barr intended to have the current U.S, Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito serve in an acting capacity in Berman’s position.
However, Berman pushed back and said he was not “stepping down” until a presidentially-appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate, according to a statement from his office. He also said he found out he was being replaced when he read the Justice Department’s press release.
“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney,” the statement reads. “I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position … 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. I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favor — and intend to ensure that this Office’s important cases continue unimpeded.”