- US Attorney General Barr announced in a late-night statement that the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman was resigning.
- Shortly after the announcement, Berman released his own statement saying he had not resigned and had “no intention” of stepping down.
- “Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption,” Berman said. “I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favour – and intend to ensure that this Office’s important cases continue unimpeded.”
- The SDNY is conducting or has conducted multiple investigations into Trump associates and other interests linked to the president.
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In a surprising Friday night standoff, US Attorney General William Barr is at odds with US Attorney of the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman.
Barr announced in a late-night statement that Berman was resigning and that President Donald Trump intended to appoint Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, in his place. In the interim, beginning on July 3, US Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito would fill in.
Shortly after the announcement, Berman released his own statement saying he had not resigned and had “no intention” of stepping down, calling into question whether or not Barr has the authority to fire him or if that rests with the president.
“I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate,” Berman said. “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 favour – and intend to ensure that this Office’s important cases continue unimpeded.”
Among other cases, the SDNY is conducting or has conducted multiple investigations into Trump associates and other interests linked to the president. Here they are:
- Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, is being investigated over his business dealings in Ukraine and whether he failed to register as a foreign agent.
- The SDNY charged two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who helped him with matters in Ukraine, with campaign finance violations.
- It was reported last year that the Manhattan US attorney’s office was among several federal entities investigating Deutsche Bank, which has long-running business ties to the Trump family and Trump Organisation.
- Berman’s office successfully prosecuted Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime former lawyer, who implicated Trump (“Individual-1”) in several crimes including campaign finance violations and tax fraud.
- The Manhattan US attorney’s office subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee as part of an investigation into potential criminal conduct including accepting illegal foreign contributions at inaugural events.
- The SDNY charged then-Republican Rep. Chris Collins, a staunch Trump supporter, with insider trading in late 2018. Collins has since resigned.
The SDNY prosecuted the Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank. Turkey spent millions of dollars lobbying the White House, Congress, and the State Department to ask the Justice Department not to investigate the bank.
- Former national security adviser John Bolton claimed in his upcoming book that Trump assured Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would intervene to stop the SDNY’s Halkbank investigation.
- CNN also reported in February that Barr “personally spearheaded” an effort last year to shield Halkbank from prosecution and negotiate a settlement with the bank that would have allowed it to avoid being indicted. The SDNY ultimately charged Halkbank in federal court for its alleged participation in a multi-billion dollar Iranian effort to sidestep sanctions.
Barr’s statement and Berman’s retort raised eyebrows, especially among Democrats. The House Judiciary Committee invited Berman to testify next week, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said: “This late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process. What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this US Attorney or one that is ongoing?”
Barr in his press release thanked Berman: “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.”