AG Barr announces termination of U.S. Attorney after Berman refuses to step down

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June 20 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump has fired Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman following Berman's refusal to resign, Attorney General William Barr said Saturday.

Shortly after Barr's announcement Berman posted a statement to Twitter confirming he would be leaving office.

"In light of Attorney General Barr's decision to respect the normal operation of law and have Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss become Acting U.S. Attorney, I will be leaving the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, effective immediately," Berman wrote. "It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as this District's U.S. Attorney and a custodian of a proud legacy, but I could leave the district in no better hands than Audrey's. She is the smartest, most principled, and effective lawyer with whom I have ever had the privilege of working."

On Friday Barr announced that Berman would be resigning his position and that New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito would become Acting U.S. Attorney for Berman's district until a permanent replacement was appointed.

But Berman -- who has investigated some of Trump's close associates -- issued a statement shortly afterward denying that he had resigned.

Barr responded Saturday with a letter informing Berman of his termination, and announcing Strauss would fill his role.

"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," Barr wrote in a letter to Berman. "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."

Trump told reporters Saturday that he was not involved in Barr's decision to fire Berman.

"Well, that's all up to the attorney general. Attorney General Barr is working on that," Trump said on the South Lawn as he prepared to fly to Tulsa, Okla., for Saturday's rally. "That's his department, not my department. But we have a very capable attorney general so that's really up to him. I'm not involved."

In his statements both Friday and Saturday, Barr said that Trump nominated Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton to replace Berman in the long term.

"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 Friday's statement. "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."

Berman, who has served as U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York since 2018, had been investigating Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani's role in efforts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine.

He also oversaw the indictment of Giuliani's associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, in October for allegedly violating a ban on foreign donations in federal elections, and prosecuted Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, though Berman was recused from involvement in the case.

The move "reeks of potential corruption of the legal process," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y, said. "What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this U.S. attorney or one that is ongoing?"

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