On Friday, US Attorney General William Barr attempted to fire Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney in Manhattan, one of the most prominent positions in the US Justice Department. Berman, while refusing to step down claimed he learned about his firing from a press release.
“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,” Berman said in the statement.
Who is Geoffrey Berman?
Berman is the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and his responsibilities include overseeing the investigation and prosecution of all criminal cases in the area and carrying out litigation on behalf of the US in all civil cases filed in the area.
Berman served as the Assistant US Attorney from 1990-1994, before that he was an Associate Counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel for the Iran/Contra matter, where he prosecuted a former CIA employee for tax fraud.
Berman was appointed as the US Attorney on January 5, 2018 and has since then investigated several associates of US President Donald Trump. These include Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen who was convicted of campaign finance fraud and lying to the Congress. Berman is also leading the investigation into Jeffrey Epstein and Trump’s current personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
What does his ‘firing’ mean?
Barr, in his statement, said, “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” and did not mention a reason for why Berman was stepping down.
According to a report in The New York Times, Barr’s announcement to replace Berman was made without any notice and is being seen as part of efforts by the Trump administration to “rid the administration of officials whom the president views as insufficiently loyal.”
The report also mentions that Trump had been discussing Berman’s removal for some time with a group of his advisors and has been “upset” with Berman for pursuing the case against Cohen.
How are US Attorneys appointed?
US Attorneys are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for each judicial district and typically, they serve terms of four years or at the President’s discretion.
Preet Bharara, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York questioned Barr’s move on Twitter, “Why does a president get rid of his own hand-picked US Attorney in SDNY on a Friday night, less than 5 months before the election?”. Bharara was fired by Trump in 2017 after he refused to resign.
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